Tertiary Update – Vol 23 No 6

This week Tertiary Update reviews the major speeches of the 2019 AnnualConference so that all members have a chance to engage with our largestdemocratic meeting. With 200 delegates, guests, and staff in attendance theconference was our biggest yet.Address of the National President, Michael Gilchrist, to TEU’s 2019Conference.The TEU Annual Conference 2019 this week marks our tenth year together, andour tenth conference as the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi.Our conference theme is ngā piki, ngā heke – we hold together, we endure,through good times and bad, through ups and downs.We have had the downs. For most of the history of this union a national-ledgovernment has done everything it can to break down the fabric of tertiaryeducation through imposing a competitive market on the sector, makinginstitutions fight for an ever decreasing pool of funds.Staff and students have suffered. Good commercial results are almost alwayspoor educational results, because commercial results come from gettingstudents enrolled to gain the income from their fees and then getting themthrough courses to show the institution is performing.The student teacher relationship, the place where all the good stuffhappens, is pushed to one side.And that’s only part of the problem. I don’t need to tell you that we havehad some bad times but I can’t resist sharing one story.Last week I was on a university campus and I overheard a conversation(okay, I eavesdropped on a conversation) between two administrative staffbehind a reception desk that summed up the situation in an almost uncannyfashion.One was coughing, quite persistently. The other remarked on it and thefirst said, ‘every so often hope springs up in me that it will get worse,that this cough will get bad enough that I will be really sick and won’thave to come into work. But it never does.’ Yes the other agreed, ‘Work ischaos.’ And here they were clearly be talking about restructuring. ‘You getthrough one chaos and then there is another. It is just chaos after chaos.’After a moment the first one said, good humouredly, ‘How bad is that? Whenyou hope that you are going to be sick just so you don’t have to come intowork.’And I thought that’s pretty bad. But this is just what the State ofthe Public Tertiary Sector survey – an outstanding piece of research by DrSarah Proctor-Thomson and Charles Sedgwick – told us.Not only have working conditions continued to deteriorate, not only hasstaff satisfaction continued to decline and stress levels continued torise, but the survey also shows the other side of the coin – that staffhave an extraordinary capacity to keep giving, to keep coming to work (inthe case I’ve just spoken with even when they have ‘as and when required’sick leave in their agreement), because they won’t let their students orcolleagues down. Because the ethos of education, of caring, and serving isin our blood.As Sarah and Charles put it, our work is the lifeblood of the system. Butthe survey also found that less than a quarter of academics would’recommend an academic career to others. So we cannot keep going to thatwell.Are there good times? Well, it is clear we now have a government that ismuch more sympathetic to the plight of the tertiary education sector, andmuch more willing to engage with the experts in the sector – the generalstaff, the academics, researchers, tutors and students.However, reforms to education in New Zealand will take time. They will nothappen overnight. It is up to us to ensure the Government delivers on whatthey have proposed, and what they have promised.Key to this is ensuring we – the experts – are at the table. It is crucialthat we are heard when decisions that have an impact on the sector aremade, and that teaching and education, and the needs of staff and studentsare central to those decisions.We must name the issues we face and articulate the impact these issues haveon both staff and students, and we must do so collectively and with a senseof urgency. This is particularly important during periods of change,disruption, and instability.So we need to keep fighting for change in the longer term – but we alsoneed to fight for stability in the short term, particularly in the ITPsector. Stability in this area will only lead to more strength andstability across the wider sector.I am reminded of a whakataukī offered by a colleague at the inaugural TEUconference.Ko te pae tata, whakamaua, kia tīnā, Ko te pae tawhiti, whaia, kia tata |Secure the horizons that are close to hand and pursue the more distanthorizons so that they may become close.Over the last ten years we have achieved so much. Together we have shownthat no horizon is too far for those who are well prepared.In particular I want to highlight three things we have achieved. We havedeveloped Te Koeke Tiriti as a framework to advance our TEU Tiritirelationship. We called on this framework as a response to the 15 Marchterror attacks in Christchurch. We called on its power of inclusion for alltauiwi and the dignity that it gives us in being a treaty partner.Second, we have developed confidence in our role as experts in our field.We know that in tertiary education our voice matters.We have learned to campaign and we have done so tremendously well. We wereresponsible for 2000 submissions for the Keep It Public campaign. We willneed these kinds of collective efforts as the reform of education movesforward.We have prepared well and we have invested in our future, but in order tosustain, we must grow.We need to move forward with a reinvigorated focus on community. This meansdiversity and solidarity, at the level of the institution, the sector, theregion and the country.And we need to practice inclusiveness in a determined way to see our uniongrow, and to increase the strength we can find in numbers and insolidarity. This is about recruitment, but also about action withinbranches. We need comprehensive systems to identify and follow up on newrecruitments. We have to work together to make face-to-face connections.As we look forward to another ten years of the Tertiary Education Union TeHautū Kahurangi, we should all be proud of everything we have achievedtogether as a union. There will be many challenges ahead, but we are wellprepared, and we move forward driven by the successes of our first tenyears together.

Also in the Tertiary Update this week:

  1. National Secretary’s Report
  2. Sending out an SOS – 130 take the pledge so far
  3. Awhi atu, awhi mai – Fighting Islamophobia, hate, and racism
  4. From the conference floor and beyond
  5. Government’s climate change plan does not go far enough
  6. TEU Awards 2019

Other news

Auckland Uni vice chancellor: Still no evidence of white supremacist claims - RNZWe’ve joined the Pink Shirt Day movement to Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying on May 17 – TEUAlso on May 17, TEU members will be celebrating IDAHOBIT dayBudget 2019: Government pours $95 million over four years into teaching resources -StuffTalking TEU – launch of the TEU’s new website - Facebook