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 kickoff 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 awide 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 thathave 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 daily basis.

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 Zealand.

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 aregiven 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 levelshas 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 aright, 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 initiatives.

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 continueto 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 return?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.