At the NZNO annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday September 13, chief executive Paul Goulter announced that members had voted by a 74 per cent majority — 2595 to 741 — to accept the National Student Unit (NSU)’s proposal to remove NZNO student membership fees.
The announcement was greeted by an eruption of applause from the students at the AGM.
“NZNO is leading by example and the Government needs to follow,” NSU co-leader Jade Power told Kaitiaki later. NSU leaders have said they are keen to see fees-free nursing study in Aotearoa New Zealand, as had been implemented in Victoria, Australia recently.
Nursing students currently get their first year of membership free, but then pay just under $49 per annum. Removing the fees would reduce NZNO’s membership income by around $67,000 per annum, the remit committee has said. NZNO has 2245 student members.
Power also said the result reinforced the purpose of NSU, which was to advocate for students and nursing.
NSU member Nic Brasch said part of the intent of the Maranga Mai! campaign was for members to stand up everywhere for other members, which was what NSU had done in this case.
NSU co-leader and Te Rūnanga Tauira chair Manu Reiri said the move was heading “in the right direction” for students across Aotearoa. He hoped it would see growth in NZNO student members, “bolstering NZNO” numbers, as well as the nursing workforce.
Northland student Anna Clarke, who has previously told Kaitiaki about the challenges facing tauira, said free union membership would definitely “make life easier for tauira on board” nursing training.
Nursing student Eli Hallam said finance had been identified as the main barrier to enrolling and staying in nursing studies.
The NSU policy remit proposed to remove fees for all individuals “studying towards certificates, diplomas and degrees which will enable them to enter the field of nursing, effective January 1, 2023.”
“This is our opportunity to fight for better outcomes for current and future nurses and their patients”
Reiri said he did not know when the fees would be removed, which would be a discussion for the NZNO board. The new NZNO board of directors is due to meet in October.
Students said in the remit that removing fees would remove barriers to unionism and working together on the challenges facing nursing.
“More and more we see news articles about staffing shortages, burnout and dissatisfaction. This is our opportunity to fight for better outcomes for current and future nurses and their patients. In order to improve our workforce (and ultimately patient outcomes) it is imperative that we remove barriers to unionism so that we can work together to improve our field.”
It was not yet clear whether there would be any limitations on students’ ability to participate in NZNO’s democratic processes as non-financial members — a question which was raised following the remit outcome.
Reiri said the question needed clarifying as first-year student NZNO members paid zero fees yet retained voting rights and “the same should come about from the policy remit”.
The students said they believed other members would support the “betterment of new nurses and that the overall benefits of free student membership are worth this risk”.