NZNO – for union democracy

Grant Brookes is the democratically elected President of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. The NZNO last year went through a major industrial struggle to win much-needed pay increases. This included strike action, the first such action in almost three decades. Many thousands of health workers were energised by this process, and the campaign, naturally, involved heated debate, discussion, and controversy. Nurses acted together. And they acted for themselves, voting down bad deal after bad deal.

Not everyone was happy with this flowering of member participation, however. For many years the top leadership of the NZNO have emphasized collaboration with the bosses and have treated rank-and-file activity as a threat to their control. Nurses are being punished for their rebellion last year, and Brookes is being targeted. He was elected, as one public letter of NZNO members puts it, as someone who “has openly championed a modernized, democratic, transparent union which fights for positive change and decent pay increases for its members.”

If the Board of Directors get their way, however, he will be removed in the middle of his term. Why? “Misconduct”. Sounds serious, but what are the details? That, over a year ago, Brookes sent this text late-night text to NZNO’s industrial head Cee Payne: “So you hitched yourself to the wrong wagon? Everyone forgives a single mistake. I’ll be in touch. We need you back.” This in the context of an ongoing industrial dispute, and after Payne had, as the public letter points out, cancelled the first DHB strike “without consulting members”.

For the Board to use this as an excuse to take legal advice and make these bureaucratic moves to oust Brookes is simply outrageous. Debate, open discussion and political accountability should be the norm in our union movement – and Brookes is accountable to the NZNO members who elected him. [Read More…]

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Anzac Day: Against the Carnival of Reaction

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