On Thursday night whilst catching up with friends at a bar, I was talking to a nurse about the impending strike action that she and her colleagues were to engage in next week. She told me that the strike had not been an easy decision to make, but that the Union members had made very clear that current conditions of their work were not tolerable.
The strike had been set down for 05 July 2018. Starting at 0700 hours hospitals, medical centres and other medical practices would be subject to a 24 hour strike action, during which time widespread cancellations of surgery and the normal duties expected of nurses would have occurred.
I am pleased that an improved offer has been been made to the Nurses Union. The offer means that the N.U. has now withdrawn the notice of intention to strike for 05 July 2018, so that the terms of the new offer may be considered and the Union vote on whether or not to accept them.
However there is a long way to go. Quite aside from the fact that there were two dates marked for potential strike action, the N.U. will not be wanting to settle for anything less than a quite substantial improvement in pay and conditions. Nine years of under funding and wrongly prioritised spending has left New Zealand nurses in a precarious position. I have described in a previous article what conditions the nurses around New Zealand work in.
But it is important to note the ethical considerations that need to be made as well. Not being able to work in a safe environment and be appropriately renumerated for their efforts undermines them as professionals working in the most humane and life giving profession there is.
It also sends the wrong and messages about the value of a critical component of the medical workforce. It needs to be in a position where it could be realistically expected to do the job expected, and that means establishing as far as realistically appropriate physical and contractual working conditions. Because at the end of the day a fatigued, distracted, or disaffected nurse poses a risk to his/her colleagues, patients and other people by not being in the right state to do their job.
The nurse at the bar will be encouraged by the new offer and the opportunity to delay very serious strike action that would have caused massive disruption across New Zealand. If we are lucky, this will be sufficient for the N.U. to cancel the strikes altogether and make 05 July 2018 a normal working day.