17 Sep 2019

Nurses' union president Grant Brookes survives removal attempt by own leadership team

1:13 pm on 17 September 2019

The president of the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation (NZNO) has survived an attempt by his own union's leadership to remove him for misconduct.

NZNO president Grant Brookes.

NZNO president Grant Brookes. Photo: Facebook/Grant Brookes, NZNO President

It occurred at a special general meeting in Wellington on Monday, attended by delegates representing its 52,000 members.

The misconduct resolution regarding Grant Brookes was brought by the union's outgoing board - the new board is elected today - and its leadership, including the kaiwhakahaere, Kerri Nuku, and chief executive officer Memo Musa.

It concerned an email that Mr Brookes admitted sending at 1.33am on 3 July last year during contentious pay bargaining with district health boards that split the union.

The email said: "So you hitched yourself to the wrong wagon? Everyone forgives a single mistake. I'll be in touch. We need you back."

The union leadership obtained an independent review into Mr Brookes' conduct, by employment lawyer Steph Dyhberg, which was reported last December.

Ms Dyhberg said in the review that "the content and tone of the message, and sending it in the middle of the night, was unprofessional".

She added it was read by the recipient, since confirmed as Cee Payne, and by Mr Musa and Ms Nuku, as threatening.

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Cee Payne. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Ms Dyhberg added she considered it was "a serious issue of misconduct", because it breached a fundamental principle of governance, because it displayed a lack of respect, and because it had caused distress to the recipient.

Mr Brookes was also criticised for communicating his own views on the industrial bargaining process in July last year, directly to members via his own Facebook page. The views sometimes clashed with those of the union leadership.

But delegates at yesterday's meeting voted down the move to oust him - by 51 percent opposed, compared to 41 percent in support of removal, and 8 percent abstaining.

He said afterwards it did not feel like a victory.

"To be honest it doesn't feel like a great win because what it has revealed is a divided organisation. And now the work begins on healing those divisions."

Mr Brookes added, however, there was to be a vote of confidence in his leadership, which may occur at a meeting in November, or be conducted another way.

In addition, he said he intends pursuing legal action in the Employment Relations Authority over the failed bid to oust him.

Kerri Nuku, kaiwhakahaere for the Nurses Organisation

Kerri Nuku. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Ms Nuku also said reconciliation must be a priority now.

"What needs to happen is some frank rebuilding of the relationship. The board had a position and the board needed to act in the benefit of the members. And they felt that it was in the interest of members to put this resolution to the table and for members to decide."

A new board was elected last Friday by online voting.

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