The Limits of Language: Ethical Aspects of Strike Action From a New Zealand Perspective
Nursing Ethics. 1997 Jul; 4(4): 303-312.
Over the last decade, successive New Zealand governments have instituted social, political and economic changes that have fundamentally challenged nurses' sense of themselves and their position in society. Major upheavals in the health service have occurred as a result of reforms promoting competition and contestability. This paper deals with the impact of one aspect of the reforms, that of the deregulation of the labour market through the Employment Contracts Act 1991. More specifically, the way in which discussions and decisions regarding the withdrawal of nursing labour are shaped by the language available to those involved are considered. The intersection of ethics and union discourses may exacerbate feelings of ambiguity and confusion in nurses facing strike action. The result can be unnecessary and unproductive division and conflict: among nurses, between employers and employees, between unions, between nurses and the public, and between nursing organizations and the Government. An examination of some of the discourses of strike action may serve as a tool to elucidate the way nurses see themselves and their clients in the context of social change and social action.
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