Message from Vice-President Kathleen Hamnett
ONE of my first career union moral dilemmas came early in my Nursing career. I was a new grad with employment of 3 months in January 1988, about to give birth to my second son who was born March 15, 1988.
Yes, it was the Winter Olympic year in Calgary, the city was abuzz with the excitement of the athletes, venues, Hidy & Howdy-the Olympic mascots.
Calgary had its bust economy of the early 80’s and many Nurses knew what it was like
to not have work or be able to support ones family.
I reflect back and wonder were the Nursing labour issues similar or different in 1988?
If I was a new grad and faced the same type of dilemma, what would I do?
I did not know what Unions were about when I started my career. I understood that I paid dues to the Union and if I was in trouble I could call the Union for help.
I quickly became aware from an active ward rep on my unit as to the issues facing Nurses. Mainly benefits and working conditions. The Employer was offering roll backs and cut backs to nursing staff.
Provincial Legislation imposed in 1984 made it illegal for Nurses to strike. This became a tipping point for Nurses as Nurses maintain they have a right to job action and only Nurses will decide whether to strike or not. UNA believes any collective agreement it signs must be voluntarily accepted by members in a democratic vote, not imposed by arbitration, or any law or ruling.
The illegal strike legislation became a hot topic in part of the decision making process of many Nurses, as did the moral dilemma of what Nurses stand for which is the care of patients. A strike vote arises out of the bargaining process. The majority of the Nurses
voted against the proposed offer which in turn led to the strike vote.
I attended one of my first Union meetings at the Carpenters Hall and was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people in attendance. What stood out was the solidarity and principles of what Nurses were standing up for at the time.
In January 1988 Nurses were asked “are you willing to go on strike for an improved offer”? Nurses D-Day, the lunch room debates were abound with various points of view.
My own personal dilemma did not go away….
- Could I walk away from the patients?
- Could I risk losing maternity benefits?
- Could I live with the decision I make?
- Would my family & friends understand and support my decision?
- Would my colleagues understand and support my decision?
- Would my decision be the right one for me?
What I have learned;
The empowerment of Nurses standing together is what makes social change therefore we must always stand together in solidarity. Nurses need to be mindful of when they are being used as pawns between hospital administration and government.
Always believe in yourself and stand up for what you believe in the right way. Be open to change, listen with a kind heart, be supportive. Most of all respect each others opinions and decisions.
I encourage you to stay informed via UNA NET via http://www.una.ab.ca, Negotiation updates via UNA fanouts, the UNA internal First Class – Negs conference (available to UNA members). Attend Local meetings – FMC meets every second Wednesday of the month (FMC Auditorium @ 4PM) or Call the Local Office at 403-670-9960.
Vice-President, UNA Local 115