Address of the National Secretary, Sharn Riggs, to TEU’s 2019 Conference.
Following another fantastic turnout at our tenth annual conference, it
seems a fitting time to reflect on our mahi and hard-fought successes of
the last year.
It’s remarkable to remember that it is ten years since we gathered to kick
off the TEU. It is remarkable to remember – for those of you who were there
– that we symbolised the joining of our two unions together by weaving a
dance around a maypole. The pictures are priceless but we are continuing
that dance, refining that dance, becoming more adept with our footwork.
And what is most remarkable is how significant the TEU has become over
these ten years as the voice of the sector, filling a space that our
academic leaders, and politicians have abandoned.
We are the ones who talk about the importance of publicly funded tertiary
education. We are the ones who talk about accessible tertiary education for
all no matter where they live. We are the ones who talk about the
significance of tertiary education, not just to the economy but to our
communities, our whanau and our regions.
This year’s conference theme challenged us to reflect on the decade that
has been, and plan for the decade to come. At conference we celebrated the
work of members in their efforts to ensure quality public tertiary
education. We also reflected on the hard times we have faced due to a
decade of austerity measures, relentless restructurings, and managerialism.
The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi is not just a union, it is
a movement of people working collectively to defend and promote quality
public tertiary education that is accessible to all. We work to address a
wide range of issues affecting students and staff. We do this because we
know staff conditions of work are students’ conditions of learning.
Together, we have achieved so much. These successes were not just about
ensuring everyone has access to tertiary education that is public, local,
and focused on learning – but about securing pay and conditions that
recognise our members’ commitment to quality tertiary education,
and the time, energy and skill they put into their work.
Over the last twelve months we have ensured the principles of the TEU were
evident in our workings, and this has led to a number of achievements that
have made a real impact on the lives of both staff and students. These are
just a few examples of the kinds of things we have been working on and
achieving – much of which is being achieved now because of the work we have
put in over previous years – over the past ten years in fact.
We won a much-needed funding boost for the sector shortly after the 2018
Budget. We dealt with 47 reviews affecting over 477 members and helped
members in over 170 personal cases. We achieved union deals at eight
institutions ranging from two to six months.We have kept the Living Wage
part of our priority claims across New Zealand.
These are the actions and the wins that help both staff and students on a
However, as is often the case, much of our work has been future-oriented
and the Government’s Education Conversation – Kōrero Mātauranga ensured
that was the case for 2018.
This national conversation necessitated an increase in direct and
constructive consultation between the union and Government, with over 400
stories collected to inform the Conversation, meetings with MPs from all
parties, and regular bi-monthly meetings with the Minister of Education to
ensure the voice of those in the sector was heard.
Our Voices from Tertiary Education report was an important part of the
early consultation, but the work has continued throughout the Reform of
Vocational Education (RoVE) submission process.
Our actions ensured that the TEC held consultations with ITP staff up and
down the country, and that the Minister of Education made a point of
speaking at the union’s own RoVE meeting. TEU’s involvement in RoVE has
continued well after the close of submissions, and the release of the
TEU-commissioned State of the Public Tertiary Education Sector Survey will
continue the conversation on the future of tertiary education in New
We have continued to present arguments about the futility of PBRF and the
damage that it and other EPIs that fail to measure the right things, are
having in our sector.
Key to our mahi over the last year, and to our involvement in the Education
Conversation has been ensuring those working and studying in the sector are
given voice. As such, the development of Te Koeke Tiriti, launched in May
2018 has been an invaluable tool for guiding TEU relationships and
behaviours and for setting our vision of how our members and staff aspire
to work together.
As we deepen our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we deepen our
commitment to fully representing all perspectives in decision making.
This commitment to ensuring a diversity of voices are heard at all levels
has also been a key feature of our work over the last year. With the help
of over 500 TEU member submissions we were able to help restore, as a
right, staff and student seats on ITP and university councils.
We ran talanoa to ensure the voice of Pasifika members was heard. We
supported student activism by working with NZUSA on joint lobbying
Together we have achieved so much. As we continue the work of securing pay
and conditions that recognise our members’ commitment to quality tertiary
education, we must also ensure the inherent value of tertiary education as
a public good is maintained and enjoyed by all. To do so we must continue
to fight for staff, student, and community representation at all levels of
decision-making, and to ensure that this representation reflects the
diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Can we change the public perception that tertiary education is not an
individual good, but an investment for the whole of our society and an
investment in our children and in the future?
Can we change the perception that universities, polytechnic, and wānanga
are not competitive businesses concerned only with delivering a financial
And can we change the perception that all tertiary education, whether it is
delivered in a wānanga, a university, a polytechnic, whether it is
delivered in a lecture theatre in a metropolitan centre or a from the back
of a van out in rural communities, is a valued and as valuable to that
person and to our society as any other kind of education?
Yes we can do that, but only if we keep our voice loud and strong.