NZNO's Blog


Together we are stronger

DHB header for blog


Together we are stronger: some reflections on DHB MECA bargaining.

Lesley Harry is the industrial adviser for the DHB sector and has been leading the NZNO negotiation team in bargaining with the DHBs. Lesley is a longtime activist who works tirelessly for a better working life for NZNO members.

Since the end of last year, NZNO has been in a time of incredible busyness and energy, because of the collective agreement negotiations between 26,000 members and DHBs.

Collective bargaining can be the best of times and (sometimes) the worst of times for unions and union members. It can be disappointing when the employer doesn’t recognise the worth of their workers, or when the discussions get stuck, and it can be hard waiting for news when we don’t know what will happen or when.

On the other hand, it has been totally exciting to see the outpouring of collective creative energy of our members on action days and at worksite meetings. NZNO members are skilled bakers and costumists, artists, photographers, organisers, decorators, activists and speakers, and are also hilarious!

We see the best of you all in your collective actions and displays of strength and solidarity – and it’s slightly overwhelming when we see letters flooding back in to realise just how many of you there are!

This incredible energy has had a solid impact so far. When the first offer was taken out for DHB members to vote on, there was a resounding ‘no’, followed up by direct action.

The DHBs and NZNO were coming from very different positions, standing far apart. Since then our negotiating team has made progress in mediation, buoyed by your support. You can be absolutely sure the DHBs take note of our action. The progress we made would not have happened without it.

It’s also interesting to note that the further through bargaining we have gone the more conversations have opened up about the bigger picture.

Government funding of DHBs affects what services can be provided, and the wellbeing of both staff and patients.

In essence, NZNO and DHBs want the same thing: to protect our precious health services and create sustainable work environments that are safe for everyone.

NZNO members are a very powerful resource in the fight against health sector cuts. DHBs might just be starting to see that they are stronger standing together with us too. This is what the power of our solidarity can achieve.

We are looking forward to hearing more news from the DHBs next week and gathering together again in huge numbers- hopefully at ratification meetings!


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MECA reflection

IMG_0313Jemma Irvine is an NZNO delegate at Wellington Hospital. She reflects on what the DHB MECA means to her.

I became an NZNO delegate last year and I attended the MECA training day in February 2015.

Can I just say, I am soooooo grateful for all the nurses who have fought hard for their rights up until now.

Some of the other nurses in the group were sharing their stories of what it has been like nursing in New Zealand over the past 20+ years. It sounds like they have had some pretty big ups and downs. Some nurses were talking about when their hospital board decided to dissolve all of their jobs and make them reapply for their positions. Some nurses weren’t rehired. Some were hired back as team leaders instead of Charge Nurse Managers and therefore on a lower wage. I couldn’t quite believe that this could happen!

Budget cuts affect everyone, but nurses often carry a higher portion of the impact. They work hard to try to do the same amount of work with less staff and fewer resources – always thinking of their patients before themselves. Over time this takes its toll. It’s not sustainable to always be working beyond your means. Something has got to give.

At one point there became the need to strike. These nurses talked about what it was like to strike. They shared the emotional impact, the feelings of guilt when standing on the picket line knowing their patients were still inside. It was not an action taken lightly. All of them said it was hard and they would not have done it if they felt that they could have kept going the way things were. I admired them so much for making a stand to improve their working conditions and fight to be able to give patient’s the care they deserve.

I know strikes are difficult for everyone, but I really appreciate being able to benefit from the hard work these brave people have put in to improve conditions for all of us; nurses, midwives, health care assistants and, most of all, patients.

Hearing some of these powerful stories made me so proud to be a nurse and I feel very privileged to start nursing in this current work environment. I am so grateful for our DHB MECA that means our conditions are able to be protected and we are treated (for the most part) fairly.

I know we are going to have to stand up to keep our working conditions in the near future as the DHB and NZNO try to come to and agreement about our MECA. I want to take this opportunity to thank the ‘oldies’ (meant in the most respectful way possible!) who have paved a lot of the way for us.

Thanks so much!

Love from a grateful, inspired young nurse.


What does the DHB MECA mean to me?

20150310_154113Kimberley McAuley is an NZNO delegate at Waikato Hospital. She was asked to speak at the event held there yesterday celebrating 10 years of the DHB MECA. This is her speech. We think it’s fantastic!

To be truly honest with each of you present today, when I was first asked to present a small talk on what the MECA means to me, at the birthday party celebration of the 10th anniversary of the MECA, I was a little taken back because: a) public speaking is not one of my strongest points, and b) I was actually going to have to really contemplate and reflect on this question.

Firstly, before I let you in on what ‘the MECA means to me’, I will introduce myself to you all. My name is Kimberley McAuley. I am a registered nurse, I work in the main operating theatres for Waikato District Health Board and I am an NZNO delegate for my workplace and have been for the past 6 months.  I have been a registered nurse for only three years, so less time than the MECA itself has actually existed.

To be quite frank, for my first two years of practice as a registered nurse, or at least the first year anyway, I had no idea what the MECA was about, let alone what it meant it me. I’m not actually sure if I knew the MECA even existed. However, over the past year I have really come to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation surrounding the MECA and the value that the MECA has not only for nurses, but additionally for our HCA and midwife colleagues as well.

For me personally, the major underpinning of the DHB MECA is the element of unity. The MECA is what holds us all, as nurses, together. The MECA works to ensure that we, as nurses, are ALL looked after.  The MECA ensures that we have decent pay, and decent conditions of work. The MECA ensures that we, and all nurses in DHBs throughout New Zealand, work under the same terms and conditions.

Personally, I can vouch and admit that at times, I don’t feel that I get the salary that I deserve when I think about the hard work that I invest into my role as a theatre nurse; the extra hours that I do, and the heart, soul, dedication and passion that I put into my tasks and responsibilities on an everyday basis. I can additionally vouch for the fact that often, and very often of late, feel that I do not have adequate conditions in my workplace. However, without this unifying MECA that we all belong to, I believe all of our workplaces and related factors to our workplaces would be a lot worse of without our MECA. This multi-employer collective agreement, in my eyes is the glue that sticks us all together, and what unifies us all.

So, to conclude, I would just like to say a big happy birthday to our MECA and long may it prevail and be there for us!



Growing our advocacy out of the ward

advocacyGuest blogger Erin Kennedy is a senior CCDHB delegate. She has a long history as a union advocate and is passionate about empowering members to work together towards a better working life.

Last week, Radio New Zealand asked to speak to a nurse about what it’s really like working at Auckland DHB in an environment that is understaffed, under resourced and, at times, unsafe.

Not surprisingly, there were no volunteers from Auckland’s current staff.  Most nurses are swift to advocate for patients on immediate clinical matters, but not so forward in publicly speaking out for patients and the health system, fearful that they risk their jobs if they do so.

This is a real worry.  How often have you shuddered at a horror story told in the tearoom, or heard a colleague declare that “I wouldn’t let anyone from my family stay on that ward…it’s just not safe”.  Surely the public has a right to know what is happening in our hospitals.

Dunedin nurses acted together this month to speak out about safety issues in the south. Sadly, nurses all over the country face the same problems – unsafe staffing levels, difficulty taking minimum breaks, problems getting study leave to maintain their PDRP and rosters which do not meet the MECA.  No wonder they feel burnt out and unsupported.

There are many ways nurses can make their voices heard. Speak to your local MP – most are readily contactable, particularly in an election year. Explain to relatives why bells cannot always be answered promptly, or why there is nobody to watch their demented relative and keep them safe. Take five minutes to fill out a reportable event documenting problems. Yes, reportable event forms disappear into a black hole at most hospitals but they still provide essential data when safe staffing and other issues are under the spotlight.

But the most effective voice nurses have is through NZNO – go to meetings, have a voice and keep your delegates and organisers informed about what is happening in your area.

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Health services on the West Coast must meet the needs of its population

ImageThe West Coast is a big place. It stretches pretty much the whole length of the South Island and its population is dispersed in small towns, from Haast in the south to Karamea in the north. It’s unique and so are its health needs.

The West Coast District Health Board is currently looking at different ways of providing services to the population. Some of its plans are controversial; with admissions there is the potential for harm and death to occur if some services are discontinued on the Coast.

NZNO thinks that’s not good enough. Every region deserves a sustainable healthcare service that meets the needs of its population and utilises its health workforce well. 

The employer has offered a meeting with all parties to discuss the issues but this has yet to occur, and certainly does not take the place of the formal consultation process under the MECA. 

We are concerned that although senior doctors have been consulted, nurses have only been minimally involved in the DHB proposal thus far. The obvious upshot of this omission is that the DHB’s business case is very “doctor-centric” and misses the great opportunity to implement a nurse practitioner model of care, which would work brilliantly in this environment. 

It is nurses who make up the bulk of health practitioners on the Coast and nurses who will have to bear the brunt of any changes to services. 

There is a proposal to move to a generalist nurse model in the acute care setting and the resulting reduction in beds will mean job losses. And if the region goes to an Integrated Family Health Centre (IFHC) model, it will mean that nurses will no longer be covered under the strong and effective partnership of the DHB MECA. The changes must not result in employers taking the opportunity to reduce wages and conditions for our members. 

NZNO is also concerned about the IFHC model as proposed. It’s a very “medical” model of delivering care, and if implemented would make integration between public health and health promotion, and inter-sector collaboration difficult. 

A major concern for us is that patient sourced funding in primary care increases substantially under the proposed new model. This will mean that the cost of providing healthcare will shift from the DHB to the patient, essentially privatising primary care in the region. 

The DHB business case suggests its new models of care will reduce presentations at ED, but our experience is that when communities are unable to access or afford healthcare when and where they need it, they end up at ED, sicker and needing more expensive acute care. 

We know that change needs to happen. Our members want a sustainable health service as much as anyone, but we see glaring issues that have not been addressed: 

  1. the lack of inclusion of the NP model;
  2. the lack of inclusion of inter-sectoral collaboration and broadening of the model to integrate this and public health and health promotion effectively into IFHCs;
  3. no discussion of how issues for nursing will be managed
  4. no consideration of how the community will be affected

It’s nurses who hold the whole thing together.  We look forward to engaging in a formal, constructive and productive consultation with the DHB. 

And we look forward to a West Coast health service that provides high quality health care to all Coast communities, when and where they need it.