New Zealand Defence Force nurses deployed during strike
31 July 2018
New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark recently revealed that 17 Defence Force (NZDF) nurses were deployed to work in hospitals around the country during the nationwide nurses’ strike on July 12.
Mark, a member of the right-wing populist NZ First Party, a coalition partner in the Labour Party-led government, and a former soldier who served in the Middle East, confirmed on July 24 that Labour Health Minister David Clark sought to use military nurses in the event of the industrial action.
Mark approved the deployment of up to 20 nurses under section 9 of the Defence Act 1990, two days before the strike. The detachment of regular force nurses was provided “to perform general nursing duties, if required, in accordance with priorities as provided by the Ministry of Health,” Mark said.
News of the deployment was kept from the public, and the majority of health workers, throughout the strike and for the following 12 days prior to Mark’s brief parliamentary statement.
This is the fourth time in 70 years that the Defence Act or its predecessor has been invoked during an industrial dispute. The first was during the bitter and prolonged 1951 waterfront workers’ strike which resulted in a decisive defeat for the workers. The other two were in the prisons during industrial action by corrections officers in 1993 and in 2001.
The move by the Labour-NZ First-Green Party government to use military personnel sends a sharp warning to the entire working class as to what the ruling elite has in store as the growing movement over wages, living standards and working conditions gathers pace. It sets a serious precedent for the use of the armed forces in any circumstances the government deems an…