NZNO lose control of their nurse members and what it could mean for the entire NZ Union movement

By   /   August 8, 2018  /   14 Comments

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There is a fascinating dynamic we are staring to see with increasingly militant members of Unions wanting far more than their Unions are able to negotiate.

Nurse union members fractured after pay deal, with many doubting it had ‘majority’ support
The nurses’ union is ignoring calls to release the results of a secret ballot that endorsed Tuesday’s pay deal.

Members of the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) are infuriated at the union’s acceptance of the District Health Boards’ collective agreement, and are doubtful of a claimed “overwhelming” majority decision.

Many are taking their anger to the Facebook forums that helped propel strike action – and racist remarks have been directed at the organisation’s chief executive Memo Musa.

There is a fascinating dynamic we are staring to see with increasingly militant members of Unions wanting far more than their Unions are able to negotiate.

We have seen it in Nursing, we will see it with Teachers and we will see it in the PSA.

I think there are two factors at play.

‘The first is the gutless spinelessness of most public service Union Leaders who wouldn’t fart without John Key’s permission over 9 years so that the deep seated resentment and frustrations of underfunded social infrastructure has built and built and built.

Working class unions like the  MWU, Unite and MUNZ protested while Key was in power, but the public service union leadership were too frightened after National slaughtered Actors Equity over the Hobbit fiasco to ever dare cross Key again.

This deep seated and pent up frustration has erupted now Labour are in power and the Unions are finding it very difficult to keep up with their members passion, which is being whipped up by the second factor that is changing things – social media.

Teachers, Nurses, Drs, Police Public Servants can now all talk to each other on social media, and just like the Woke Left whipping themselves up over declaring anyone who supports free speech as a Nazi, Unions can’t reign in their members wokedom.

This could be interesting times.

More militant unions could set up and start poaching members who chose to quit and join those more prepared to fight for their conditions all the time rather than wait a decade. We haven’t seen new Unions form or poach members from each other for a long time, but social media could make that very easy to do.

This is a perfect storm of the Union Leaderships own making, they need to start some serious engagement with their members and have far better social media strategies to help unify rather than antagonise. The amount of PSA staff members who spend most of the day engaging in Twitter fights with everyone they hate could come back to bite them in the arse if their members pick up the same level of intolerance.

This is a new problem the Union Leadership need to get their heads around. Quickly. The new Government need a partner in Industrial Relations and if the Unions can’t provide that, the new Industrial Relations laws (which are already pretty watered down) will get even more watered down.

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14 Comments

  1. David Stone says:

    If there’s voting it has to be transparent or chaos rules.
    D J S

  2. Z says:

    Yus, why not release the vote count?

    Had a look on electionz.com and notice their site isn’t mobile compatible. Given they claim to provide a service related to tech which is apparently solid this is not a good start. I can select a menu option but have about a centimeter to read it.

  3. Sam Sam says:

    I mean if it’s anything to do with woman it isn’t counted as work. Raising children in a multicultural society isn’t counted as work, no one gets payed for it so its valueless. What work is, is the stuff you get a lot of money for so speculating on currencies or speculating in general in order to drive down growth rates and you’ll get lots of money for that and that’s considered valuable by society. The whole thing is built around false premises it’s hardly worth discussing, the whole point is driving down growth rates or at least having a desire and talent for power and giving the levers a good pull.

  4. Marc says:

    What some may fail to realise with their excitement about more ‘radicalism’ or rather anger within those unions, that is the fact that those workers are mostly considered to be middle class.

    They did not ever bother standing up for the lot of beneficiaries or low paid workers. They like to consider themselves more worthy, because they studied and trained for long to get well ‘qualified’.

    So there is a bit of an entitlement mentality, and having fallen behind some others in the middle class, they now want to catch up, so they can drive the same nice cars as the other Jones’ and buy the same properties that others have, to live in, and as an investment, for their retirement.

    We have a pronounced class system, based on certain class members feeling more entitled than others, because they studies something, and because they consider themselves possessing skills and experience that is urgently needed, to serve the rest of society.

    It is not hard for such persons to make demands and even take strike action, i.e. the public service, while they are still relatively well organised. It is a different story for those many on individual contracts, or even those working as virtual slave contractors as courier drivers and the likes.

    This division was created and reinforced under the last government, and even under the more recent Labour governments nothing much was done to bring people back together.

    If nurses, teachers and police and other state employees get more pay, it is the taxpayers, the rest of us, who have to pay for it. So do they show solidarity with our working poor, the precariat and the beneficiaries, I wonder?

    So I am not nearly as excited about this new development, which may well split the union movement further, and divide workers more, so they will become even weaker in future.

    • Tiger Mountain says:

      well put, “non solidarity” with the rest of the working class and oppressed is indeed a hallmark of public sector union members, particularly at WINZ/MSD/ACC

      with the Nurses though, the militants have got it wrong imo, good progress was made and the numbers were narrowing, making it absolutely time to settle now and organise to fight again, it was a significant logistical task running that dispute efficiently, never mind the politics involved

      so why weren’t there more strikes under National? the answers are pretty obvious, and not pleasant which ever way you slice and dice it–National are hard core union busters that reduced union rights and kept downward pressure on wages via migration, 90 day fire at will and a low wage economy

      …and bar Helen Kelly, the NZCTU seemed bereft of class battlers in it for a fight, as are the state sector union leaders, full marks to First, Unite and Etū and other private sector unions though, that never gave up battling away and organising members

      the new govt has created a more permissive atmosphere and workers need to go for it, nothing comes without organisation, even somewhat friendly govts don’t give it on a plate!

    • Aaron says:

      Totally agree about the class issues:

      Us white middle class people are very proud of the fact that we’re not racist, sexist or homophobic. Indeed, it’s quite clear that we’re the good people – and that’s why we just can’t tolerate those terrible working class people because they’re just so umm, intolerant.

      I think that sums up the state of class politics in NZ. It’s well disguised and we don’t talk about it but it’s still just as strong as ever.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      [ ” They did not ever bother standing up for the lot of beneficiaries or low paid workers. They like to consider themselves more worthy, because they studied and trained for long to get well ‘qualified’.

      So there is a bit of an entitlement mentality, and having fallen behind some others in the middle class, they now want to catch up, so they can drive the same nice cars as the other Jones’ and buy the same properties that others have, to live in, and as an investment, for their retirement ”]

      ——————————-

      Back up a bit.

      What you say may be correct.

      But two points here:

      One is , – that eventually , there will be a recognition that in strength there is power. Such as when other unions would go on strike in sympathy with one sector , – or supply much needed necessities to the striking family’s such as food, clothes etc.

      Secondly , – by the very act of these ‘ middle class’ types striking and achieving small advances, – this will embolden other more ‘working class’ industry unions to see that they too, can unite, and fight for proper wages and conditions.

      This is only the start.

      And long overdue.

  5. Michelle says:

    The unions need to step up now the gnats are gone as they (the gnats)
    undermined the unions & public servants for the 9 years they were in power. Turning them against one another and making them seem irrelevant. Some people don’t have confidence in the unions but they need to rebuild and sell the benefits of being part of a collective something that was almost destroyed and would have been dead if the gnats got in another term. Privatisation and profits are the gnats main agenda is not about people its about everyman for himself
    (individualism) until the shit hits the fan like we have another environmental disaster then we are all asked to work together for the greater good. Yet in the workplace its every man for himself.

  6. Ada says:

    My nursing relatives believe the NZNO wanted to settle as fast as possible because their first loyalty was to the Labour-led government, not their members.

    As Martin has pointed out on this blog, an outbreak of public sector strikes and high wage settlements threatens the 2020 election.

  7. WILD KATIPO says:

    Yeah , cutting the balance between giving National ammo and their right wing lobby groups to publish horrific accounts of Union militancy and dragging the whole country down,… and that of a ‘partner in Industrial Relations’ that work in with the coalition.

    Its a difficult one because as Chris Trotter once posted it was the PSA / Public sector unions that voted against the private sector unions in calling for a nationwide rolling strike to oppose the 1991 Employment Contracts Bills.

    And after decades of wage / conditions suppression , continued inroads made into neutering unions by in particular National govts supported by lobby groups such as the NZ Initiative, – we now see the simmering discontent that was masked not just for years, – but decades starting to erupt.

    Simmering discontent that was masked by paid for economists commentary’s , a sycophantic media , dogmatic repeating of the neo liberal mantra of the ‘trickle down’ theory , free market reforms and GDP reports while deliberately ignoring the real time poverty in this country – homelessness, housing bubbles, wages that were way below the costs of living…the list goes on and on and on …

    But if we were to keep this conversation about unionism, I lay the blame squarely at the public sector unions like the PSA. It would almost seem as if they have had ‘moles’ in their organizations since the time of Ruth Richardson onward’s, – operatives who are in the pay of the far right wing.

    They would know only too well how to infuriate their members to cause dissension and how to manipulate that to make Labour look bad. And they would know how – if they are indeed taking their cues from the far right wing.

    Which I suspect many are.

    However,… that may be coming to a deafening and sickening crunch in future regardless of what cunning little schemes they try to cook up.

    Because the discontent , and the fury , will not be canned and bottled up forever. And even if National were to be returned to power now… the members of the unions have had a recent taste of what at present is, – a long forgotten taste, – of what is rightfully theirs and what their trade union forebears fought for .

    I predict in the coming years the rage of the trade unions at the neo liberal rip off that so many have been made the victims of for so long will have the lid blown right off of it , – and these mild ructions we are experiencing now will be dwarfed by the large scale industrial actions which are going to come.

    We aint seen nothin yet.

  8. RED BUZZARD says:

    +100 great Post by Martyn Bradbury…and it has the potential to destabilise and bring down the new coalition Labour, NZF, Green ‘Left’ government

    totally agree with this as to reasons for this situation…

    “‘The first is the gutless spinelessness of most public service Union Leaders who wouldn’t fart without John Key’s permission over 9 years so that the deep seated resentment and frustrations of underfunded social infrastructure has built and built and built.”

    (why didnt nurses protest and ask for higher wages under the John Key Nactional government ?…there is no excuse… and people are beginning to see nurses in a new light…bullies)

  9. gsays says:

    Thanks Martyn for this.
    My take is that the union’s loyalty was to the DHB rather than their membership.

    Where was a further notice to strike?

    Essentially the same deal was presented to the workers several times with minor rejigging.

    I feel the accord signed could have been put off till the members had voted on the pay/conditions offer.
    To sign the accord undermined and weakened the nurses stance.

    I also know, here in Palmy, several a senioror nurses crossed the picket line.
    After all, empty nest, no mortgage, husband on a good wicket- blow the bridge, I am over.
    The main things wanted by most of the nurses was safe staffing, and a better environment for the next generation of nurses.

  10. sumsuch says:

    Clarkian middle-classians — hello Flo(rence Nightingale)! Can talk it but can’t do it. Why I didn’t vote for you as Labour leader, Robertson. Why I wanted to break up your party with Cunliffe. Why I want the unions to lead in the absence of you. I can ask you to step up but I’d fall over laughing. You’re sweet-faced presentations with CVs to fulfill. Hold your ‘State of the Nation’ in Murupara, Jacinda, and I will think again.

  11. Janio says:

    Union officials are employed by the union members and if they are leading despite what the members want when they should be following members’ wishes, they are working in an undemocratic way. So when you refer to the negotiators as the “Union” Martyn, you fail to recognise that the union is its members.

    There was great difficulty in many areas to get nurses on board to do the essential work – one indicator of how widespread was members’ feeling about holding to their rejection of offers.

    As for ‘middle class’ unions going it alone where are your examples Marc? Some are better paid but they are all workers. I was active in a state union and our branch supported other union struggles constantly.