Erin Kennedy is an NZNO leader in Wellington. Since 2006 she has represented members in the workplace, in the media and in the Council of Trade Unions. In her roles as Lead Delegate, Convenor and Co-convenor at my DHB, I worked closely with Erin for over a decade.
Last month, Erin submitted a letter to the editors of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Although the July 2020 issue of Kai Tiaki carries an interview with Erin on the same topic, they declined to print her letter in full. I therefore publish Erin’s letter here.
Thanks to the honest reporting in these pages in recent months, most Kai Tiaki readers are aware of the serious problems affecting the NZNO board of directors.
There is less awareness about the breakdown in representative democracy and bicultural partnerships taking place elsewhere in the union. As demonstrated by developments in the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), however, these are just as serious.
GWRC represents approximately 5000 members living or working in the greater Wellington region. These are the people who are entitled to attend regional council meetings, although under our constitution only elected regional councillors are entitled to vote. Many of these 5000 members are probably unaware of who their councillors are, or even that the regional council exists. But GWRC makes important decisions on their behalf, including submitting remits for the one member one vote process and approving candidates wishing to stand for the board of directors.
I have been attending GWRC meetings for several years. The last meeting, on June 10, was unlike any I have experienced before. The council chairperson was not present. Nor was the vice-chair who sent apologies. The only member of the regional council’s five-member management committee who attended was the representative of Te Runanga.
At the start of the meeting, another member of Te Runanga, from outside the region (and therefore not entitled to vote) announced that NZNO chief executive Memo Musa had asked her to be present.
In our member-driven organisation, the role of NZNO staff and management is to operationalise the strategies and policies set by leaders elected by members. It is not their role to intervene in governance structures such as regional councils. This point was made at the meeting, but ignored.
In the absence of the chairperson and vice-chair, the Runanga member from outside the region said that she would oversee an election of a temporary chair for the meeting. A second member of Te Runanga, whose name has never appeared on the list of elected regional councillors either was nominated as chair. So was a long-serving GWRC member.
A vote was held. It was farcical. Members of Te Runanga who are not regional councillors were allowed to vote by the Runanga member who was also not a regional councillor.
As a result, and despite protests, a Runanga member who was not a regional councillor was elected to run the meeting our Greater Wellington Regional Council.
There appears to be little point in making a complaint about this to the NZNO chief executive, who, after all, instigated the whole process. And so our only recourse is here in the letters page of Kai Tiaki, to inform our fellow members that the current leadership of NZNO are making a mockery of democracy and partnership in our organisation.
For me, this was the last straw. After more than 30 years as a union delegate, 14 of those with NZNO, I have resigned my roles as workplace delegate and regional councillor. All I can say now is that fixing NZNO is going to take a radical overhaul of our governance structures and leadership.
Erin Kennedy, RN