7 May 2020

Further unrest at nurses' union after series of setbacks

7:49 am on 7 May 2020

Former leaders of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation are backing a petition to remove its current board.

Nurse practitioners in New Zealand have the legal authority to practice beyond the level of a registered nurse.

Hundreds have already signed the petition. Photo: 123RF

It's another setback for the union, which has recently seen the resignation of its president, vice president and three other board members.

The trade union's current most senior board member has dismissed the petition as an untimely distraction during the Covid-19 outbreak.

It has so far collected more than 750 signatures.

Nano Tunnicliff - one of the petition organisers - believed nurses were being kept in the dark about what was happening within the board.

She was president of the organisation from 2009 to 2012.

Tunnicliff said fresh elections were needed to end what appeared to be infighting among board members.

"It certainly hasn't been delivering in the best interests of members in terms of salaries or safe staffing and improved working conditions," she said.

NZNO president Grant Brookes.

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

A misconduct investigation into the most recent active president, Grant Brookes, has led to discontent among members.

Brookes was investigated over inappropriate behaviour and narrowly survived a vote to remove him from office last September.

In December, Brookes did lose a vote of confidence. However, the board didn't take any action against him before he resigned last month.

Tunnicliff said the board spent far too long on such issues - which were a distraction.

"There shouldn't be any infighting at all and they shouldn't be the issue where we've got staff members walking away from the organisation being dissatisfied," she said.

Kerri Nuku, kaiwhakahaere for the Nurses Organisation

Kerri Nuku. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

However, the Nurses Organisation's Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, hit out at the move to replace the board.

"I think it was extreme disappointment that a small group, which used this time - when we're dealing with issues of Covid-19, dealing with issues of short staffing, of making sure our members are safe when they go to work - using this opportunity to push their views and agendas," she said.

Nuku said there was a democratic process to replace the vacant board positions starting next month.

She said the fact that three former presidents had backed the petition did not amount to much.

"It doesn't mean anything to me," Nuku said.

"You know, our organisation elects people democratically into this board's position, they are elected from members that believed that they had the skill and attributes to forge forward and articulate the concern and better our strategies and then ensure that the operations of our organisation do the best job that they possibly can.

"Those are the people whose views matter."

Marion Guy was the president of the Nurses Organisation twice, first from 2005-2009 and then again from 2012-2015.

She has been with the union since 1998 and said is backing the removal of the board.

"So it raised concerns through a lot of members - members at work were coming to me and saying what's happening and at NZNO and so it kind of raised concerns with me as to why this would happen," Guy said.

Tunnicliff says reaching the 500 signature mark on Wednesday meant the petition would be given to the Nurses Organisation chief executive, and the union's constitution outlines a process for a special general meeting.

In the meantime, Nuku said her and the board had no intention of quitting.

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