New NZNO president Anne Daniels says it is time for collective action and solidarity as the organisation fights for safe staffing levels, equity across nursing sectors and better working conditions.
A registered nurse at Dunedin Hospital’s emergency department, Daniels has more than 40 years’ nursing experience and has been an NZNO delegate for 30 years.
She said she was urged by three former presidents and several former board members to stand in the election. After reflecting, she decided that towards the end of her nursing career, she wanted to contribute as a leader and “true blue unionist” to NZNO.
Daniels said she planned to focus on safe staffing, better working conditions and pay equity across nursing sectors.
“I find it totally unacceptable that members working in some parts of the community get paid less than others – it’s not justified. I’m saying that all nurses need to be paid fairly and have the same working conditions.”
She feared existing pay differences were leading to division among nursing sectors. “That has to stop.”
Nurses had rarely experienced a time when their voices were heard and acted on, she said. “However, the first time that I saw this happen… was during the “we are worth it campaign” where nurses and the community fought together for pay and conditions that reflected nurses’ worth… and we won.”
Daniels said this collective action and solidarity was being demonstrated through current DHB member negotiations. But, she said, it came from anger, frustration and for some, the despair of not being able to do the job in a way that meets professional, ethical and legislative standards of practice.
‘I find it totally unacceptable that members working in some parts of the community get paid less than others – it’s not justified.’
Unsafe staffing and “huge” workloads for nurses resulted in rising burnout, increased sick leave, and challenges to recruitment and retention of staff.
“For me, there is a grave injustice in accepting inequities in pay and work conditions, and education funding, for any nurse in New Zealand.” Similarly, it was wrong to accept unsafe staffing in any sector, Daniels said.
“Individually and collectively, we must all be the change that we want to see in our world.”
She said Health Minister Andrew Little acknowledged those “inequities and injustices” in his speech at the 2021 NZNO Conference. “This also gives me hope.”
With the NZNO constitution about to be reviewed, it was a “pivotal” time. She hoped the review would make it easier for members to engage in NZNO work and campaigns such as safe staffing.
“Those at the coalface know the problems and know the potential solutions.”
Daniels wanted to ensure the constitutional review was truly member-driven, with nationwide workshops and social media campaigns.
“We need to ask them what our union, our organisation should look like and how it should work.”
Successive governments had lost the trust of nurses, she said. “We can rely only on ourselves as an organisation… we need everyone, staff and members, to be in the same waka, going in the same direction, to get to where we need to go.”