There were plenty of "toots" for the striking nurses assembled at the Heads Road roundabout near Whanganui hospital on Thursday.

Who doesn't support the nurses? Who doesn't want to see them well rewarded for the wonderful work they do?

It's hard not to be on their side.

But I didn't "toot" as I headed to the hospital for day nine of my sick son's stay there.


That was not because I do not appreciate the sterling service he has received (as I have) from nursing staff in his struggle to recover his health.

No question — the nurses have been great, as they invariably are.

My hesitation over beeping the horn is about the current negotiations between the district health boards and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation which represents the thousands of staff who walked off the job for 24 hours for the first time in 30 years.

The health boards and NZNO leaders struck a deal which both sides could live with, and the union recommended its members accept.

By a reportedly very slim majority, the members rejected the offer (as they have every right to do) — hence the strike.

So where do we go from here?

The health boards are understandably concerned about a "disconnect" between the union negotiators and its members and, indeed, the union leadership has come under fire from members.

So who is representing the nurses now?


They do invaluable work — as such it is hard to put a value on it.

But employer-worker negotiations are about give and take — nobody gets exactly what they want but they get enough to satisfy both sides.

It is about compromise ... but now it is the integrity of the collective bargaining around the nurses' deal that has been compromised.