Candidate for TEU president, Michael Gilchrist says he will extend political campaigning to industrial issues

Posted By TEU on Sep 28, 2018 | 2 comments

The election of a new TEU national president and other elected positions will take place between Monday 8 October 2018 and Friday 19 October 2018. This week’s Tertiary Update profiles the two candidates.

TEU national president candidate Michael Gilchrist is excited by the success of TEU’s current leadership in mobilising members in political campaigns and he wants to see this extended into the union’s industrial side.

Speaking as part of his campaign for national president, Michael said the “TEU has done a great job mobilising members to campaign politically, building influence in the sector and partnerships with students and other stakeholders. I want to continue that momentum. To do this effectively, we must extend our campaigning approach into the industrial side of our union.”

Michael pointed to the success of public sector colleagues who are now mobilising large numbers of members with strong public support to win change in their sectors.

“At the time of the last election there was a recognition that conditions for large numbers of working people had become intolerable. But the market place model of tertiary education remains and the ties that polytechnics and others in the ITP sector have had to the community are weakened. We need to keep campaigning.”

Michael says success depends on building membership density and effective communications networks that empower members. He believes he has the skills and experience to do this. He cites experience in “every aspect of the tertiary sector from just about every angle”, from representing post-graduates and jobs in administration, lecturing, research and currently as a head tutor in Philosophy at Victoria University, along with his leadership experience in a range of unions.

After graduating from Otago University, Michael became involved in the Wellington Hotel Workers Union, holding the roles of treasurer and vice-president.

While working as a postie, he was the founding chairperson of the Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa. He went on to become national secretary of the Trade Union Federation.

“I learnt how to build a union in the Postal Workers Union and how to be a spokesperson, to lobby and manage media in the TUF.”

He did time with ASTE and 10 years as an AUS organiser until he took up a scholarship to do a PhD, recently returning to do a short-term TEU organiser role.

Michael sees Auckland as a priority and says his experience at Victoria in dealing with VC Stuart McCutcheon is an asset. He is committed to maintaining work on Te Koeke and working hard on implementation internally and externally. And as an activist in the Living Wage for Vic campaign since it began, he wants to see TEU continue to take leadership in the living wage movement.

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  1. Michael, do you have an absolute commitment to freedom of academic debate and discourse? Do you think it is appropriate to justify banning a speaker because you disagree with their views?

    Post a Reply
    • Kia ora tatou – and thanks for this question Claire.
      I posted on my facebook page ( on 20 September saying that I thought that NZ Union of Students’ Associations President Jonathan Gee got it pretty much exactly right on Morning Report that morning. Jonathan was clear that the Massey V-C had breached important principles of free speech and academic freedom.
      Two days later Sandra’s statement came out. I was surprised by the view she expressed and I certainly don’t agree with it. We had a good discussion on this point at a meeting with some members of branch committee at Canterbury University last week where members said that her statement had created something of a furore there. I’ve since heard from others seeking my view, including some of the many TEU members who have vigorously and publicly defended academic freedom on behalf of themselves, their colleagues and their institutions, in the past. My position is this:
      • Academic freedom is a moral and legal doctrine that is bright at the centre and clear at the edges. It lies, as one member has put it, at the heart of the academic enterprise. We must stand at the centre of this principle and defend it from encroachment from any angle.
      • It applies equally to students as to staff. Apart from any other reason, that is quite plain in section 161 of the Education Act 1989. We need to stand together with students whenever necessary in defence of academic freedom.
      • With regard to the incident at Massey, the V-C unquestionably infringed the rights of students to ‘question and test received wisdom ’. That right obtains, precisely, within their institution, on its premises and it should not be frustrated in its practical effect.
      • Hate speech is repugnant to all TEU members and is dealt with elsewhere in the law. However, no-one (as far as I know) has claimed that this was the issue in this case.
      • While I absolutely support Prof. Thomas’s commitment to making Massey a te Tiriti led institution – and likewise support our own TEU framework for the implementation of te Tiriti (te Koeke) – there are no principles of Te Tiriti that I am aware of that could be interpreted as qualifying the doctrine of academic freedom.
      Incursions on our academic freedom also include Prof. McCutcheon’s attempts to silence staff speaking out about restructuring or other changes at Auckland University. Part of academic freedom is that Tertiary Institutions must ‘maintain the highest ethical standards and permit public scrutiny … and accountability for the proper use of resources allocated to them.’ The university cannot hide within the employment rights and obligations that might, arguably, apply to private companies. If it is to fulfill the role it has accepted as ‘critic and conscience of society’ it must accept a reflexive obligation to be open to scrutiny of its policies and practices. It will radically undermine that role – becoming open to charges of mere hypocrisy – if it seeks to do otherwise.
      I look forward to discussing these issues at meetings with members this week, including at Auckland University this Thursday at 3pm.
      Ngā mihi

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