It was sad to see in October’s coverage of the NZNO annual general meeting that membership had dropped by 0.9 percent over the 2019/20 year, to end on 31 March at 51,643. But I was struck by chief executive Memo Musa’s comment about this to the AGM, that “the trajectory still pointed to growth”.
As a union, we have power in numbers. So a trajectory of growth would be good news for members. It would mean more union strength to deliver for each one of us, and more resources to support nursing. Sadly, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Just six days before the AGM, on 11 September, the chief executive had emailed all members with the results of the Board by-election. The notice stated that total membership (the number of eligible voters) was now 50,418. In other words, there had been a further 2.4 percent drop the in five months from 31 March.
The chief executive also told this year’s AGM that, “NZNO was ‘lucky’ compared to other unions, many of which were seeing a decrease or ‘stunted’ growth”.
The day before these words appeared in the October Kai Tiaki, a headline on Stuff announced, “Covid-19 boosts NZ union membership”. According to the Stuff article, “Union members as a proportion of the workforce rose over the three months to June, to 19.8 per cent compared with 19.1 per cent in the December quarter 2019, according to Statistics New Zealand data released by the Council of Trade Unions. Union membership rose by about 12,000 to 411,000 by the end of June, from 399,000 in March.”
Musa’s account to the 2020 AGM had the story back to front. Over the two years from September 2018 up until the 2020 Board election, while other unions have been growing, NZNO membership dropped by 4.4 percent from 52,712 to 50,418. This is not a “trajectory of growth”.
NZNO members deserve the truth. And NZNO staff – whose livelihoods depend on the number of fee-paying members – are entitled to no less.
The fall of 2,294 members since September 2018 is the largest numerical drop over a two-year period in NZNO’s history. This is sapping our union strength, and shaving more than a million dollars off NZNO’s annual income. It should be ringing alarm bells for all our leaders and triggering urgent corrective action. To rebuild our organisation, we need a leadership willing to face reality and be held to account.
Grant Brookes, RN