The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Union Myths #5 - Shortland Street tells it like it is

Readers may not have noticed, but there is a bit of a union-centred storyline running on Shortie St at the moment, irritating me no end with its inaccuracies*.

The premise is that Toni (head nurse) is the goodie just trying to manage her nurses as best she can and Brenda (who wants Toni's job) is the baddie backed by the union to unfairly make the boss's wife** hell.

The union in this case is called the "Nurses Association". There is no such union - and they were wise to not refer to the NZNO (known as the Nurses Organisation) by name as the portrayal of their role is rather a long way from what might happen in a real situation of this nature.

To start with, there is allegedly one "woman from the union" involved, and she is clearly on Brenda's side and offering nothing but criticism to Toni. In actual fact in a member versus member situation you will often have two union officials involved, one supporting and representing each side. Certainly as the union official there is a certain amount of sensitivity required when you are dealing with conflict between members, and I would expect the union character to be more circumspect in her actions, and in her comments to both Toni and Brenda.

Although in this case Toni is (partly) acting with her employer hat on, and as such would not usually turn to the union for help but instead to the DHB's HR department. But this is telly and apparently the mythical DHB and Shortland St hospital don't employ anyone in Human Resources, so Toni is facing this crisis alone as the union has abandoned her. The union official is certainly not normally in the situation of judge in these matters, but she is being cast that way (and as a biased decision-maker) on this occasion.

Furthermore, Brenda is throwing around threats of strike. There are only two situations in which union members can strike legally, under the current law:

  1. During bargaining for a new collective agreement (does not appear to be the case, there's been no reference to it); or
  2. In a health and safety situation where labour is withdrawn due to the risk (this could be the case here, I haven't been watching closely enough, but it's very very rare in real life. If anyone can think of an example in recent years of a strike for this reason then I'd love to hear about it in comments).
Union members only strike after a vote to do so. I've yet to see the nurses on Shortland St doing anything like voting, instead the plot is focused on Brenda as the baddie who they all blindly follow, and Toni as the martyr. My experience of union members is that they are not easily persuaded to strike and in fact want to avoid it for as long as possible. Particularly those whose jobs are vocational and involve looking after other people.

So in summary: Shortland Street - wrong about unions since at least 2007.

*And here's the index to the rest of the union myths series to date (can't believe I haven't written one since 2005!)
** For those not in the know, which I think I can safely assume is most of my readership, Toni is married to Chris who is the CEO of Shortland St Hospital. The other aspect at play here is that Chris has been having an affair (now ended) with another doctor who is encouraging Brenda in her anti-Toni crusade, in order to exact revenge on her former lover and blackmail him into giving her the Head of Surgery job.


Aucklander At Large said...

You watch Shortland St? Can I suggest King of the Hill on C4 as slightly more intelligent watching...?

Aucklander At Large said...

slightly more intelligent watching

Gaaa! Grammar like that is a nice way to contradict ones self. Try:

slightly more intelligent viewing

Span said...

I'm not a religious watcher, but I do find it interesting as it does address a lot of the social politics of NZ society.

After work it's nice to watch something quite brainless, and I'm usually cooking dinner around that time, so viewing that only requires vague attention is all good.

Certainly I yell at the tv less than when I watch Close Up or Campbell Live and that has to be a good thing.

welly_girl said...

I had noticed the same things on Shorty St re the nurses association.

However they certainly are being quite political at the moment, what with an understaffed hospital, the religious healing and even the Primary Care Clinic.

Who knows maybe we will see some whingeing about taxes next?