Before I go on, just a little about myself. To take up this role, I resigned as national secretary of NZEI Te Riu Roa, the union of primary and early childhood teachers, support staff and Ministry of Education employees.
In my time there and with my previous experience in the union movement I have consistently seen the critical role that nursing unions play in representing and campaigning for their members as well demanding a recognised voice for the profession within the health sector.
I want to acknowledge the solidarity and unity of our members in this most difficult of times. Your contribution to the wellbeing of the peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand is widely acknowledged and comes at great personal cost – a cost that is the foundation of your profession.
As NZNO members you have done great things, but our challenges remain.
So what do I see as those challenges and how should we take them on?
Basically I see the union movement built on two cornerstone unions – the teaching unions and the nursing union.
What we bring to the table is something other unions struggle to attain. We bring a unique combination of industrial and professional capacity. A capacity that engages all of our members in winning whatever they set out to win.
“We need to build a powerful NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa that is rigorously fixated on winning.”
And to do that we need to be powerful – a powerful voice but more importantly a powerful force for change.
I believe that while our union has done great things, we can be better.
We need to build a powerful NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa that is rigorously fixated on winning. A NZNO that will embrace innovation and change and an NZNO that will continuously learn and be out there – visibly campaigning to win on our issues.
And fundamental to that is the crisis of staffing and resourcing. Your situation right across all of the parts of the sector is intolerable.
We have heard everyone saying how bad it is but what difference has that made? So we need to change things up: and to do that we are going to take a very public campaign out there – engaging our members, our whānau and communities – making it clear this has to change and change now.
Fundamental to that are our Te Tiriti obligations. NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa has embraced those obligations but we need to hardwire that right across the union.
In my previous union we called it Moku te Ao. NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa will develop its own take but we cannot win in Aotearoa New Zealand unless we acknowledge and address the fundamental issues of Māori health and the situation of those working in those areas. This must be part of the win.
That is what I bring to NZNO. It will require change – significant change in some areas but change that is worked through professionally and practically.
I already sense that our members are up for that – taking action (whatever that looks like) right across the motu to win on the issues close to our members’ ambitions.
I am really looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible and hearing from you about what you want from NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa.
Interesting times ahead!