We’ve been concerned to hear of the undemocratic attacks on New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) President Grant Brookes. The NZNO is one of New Zealand’s largest unions, and against the wishes of many in its bureaucracy was pushed by members into taking the first nationwide strike in the public health system in 30 years. This action served as an inspiration to union members across the country, and kicked off a renewed union militancy that has led to rapid growth, increased organisation, and big wins for the working class in Aotearoa. If it weren’t for the bravery of rank-and-file nurses, and the leadership of Brookes, it’s possible some of these struggles may not have been taken up. In a personal capacity, Brookes has a long history of standing up for progressive causes, including standing in solidarity with other workers and recently pledging support for the land protectors at Ihumatao.
Clearly, some in the upper echelons of NZNO are more concerned with backroom politicking than the fortunes of their members or the broader working class. In spectacularly anti-democratic fashion, the current NZNO Board of Directors have attempted to remove Grant Brookes from his elected position on the last day before they’re replaced by a new Board. The stated reason for this action is an innocuous text message sent by Brookes to a senior staffer, after they had cancelled strike action to recommend an offer that was then voted down by members. The real reason, of course, is his willingness to stand against conservative union officials, and for rank-and-file members and broader working class solidarity in our shared struggles.
The coup against Brookes will fail, as NZNO members are again showing their ability to organise independently of their conservative bureaucracy. An open letter in support of Brookes has been signed by dozens of delegates across NZ, reflective of his genuine support amongst the membership to whom he is accountable. We are confident that these members asserting their democratic rights within their union will win, and that this win will set the stage for a new era of struggle for healthcare workers. This will be Brookes’ legacy within the union movement, and will allow nurses to continue leading the struggle in Aotearoa.
We urge solidarity with Brookes, with those organising against the undemocratic coup within NZNO, and with all healthcare workers engaged in the struggle. All power to the nurses!
You can support Grant Brookes by donating to his legal fund.