Proactive, Reactive, and Lots of Mahi.

Tina Smith looks back at her two years as Tumu Whakarae

The last two years have felt rather like the continuation of a rollercoaster ride that started with the sudden plunge into lockdown in 2020. However, TEU and members have not only been responsive to the sudden twists and turns of this ride, but we have remained future focused and steadfast to the whiānga | principles of Te Koeke Tiriti. Collectively, there has been an impressive amount of work to ensure the best for the staff and students of the tertiary education sector.

There was enthusiasm and hope in January 2021 when 60 members attended a TEU created opportunity to sit with and speak directly to the senior management team of Te Pūkenga, sharing their views on an operating model for this new network of provision. This co-design forum saw TEU members having their say before ITP chief executives and other groups.

Te Pūkenga and ROVE – an unprecidented change – has required a huge amount of mahi | work over the last two years to ensure the views of staff were forefront. Building relationships and proactively creating opportunites for the voice of members is foundational to TEU mahi. This has meant lots of meetings, documents to comment on, and roadshows in the Te Pūkenga space. Gaining three Liaison Officers have supported this work and together we have created change and improvement to strategy, policy, and the operating model. We were also successful at limiting the reviews or restructures in this part of the sector.

The mahi to progress TEU’s Te Tiriti relationship journey saw conversations about the rules review also get underway in 2021. These resulted in five mātāpono, or principles, being endorsed by conference 2022. The mātāpono will set the direction of all we do together; they are our kaupapa covering Te Tiriti, decent work, sustainability, equity, and public education. Regular meetings and hui with a board representation of members is progressing this work on the structures and rules.

Despite the challenges of the COVID rollercoaster ride, TEU has impressively continued to meet the goals of the union, such as building member activism, recruitment, progressing equity and fair pay, improving working conditions, and responding to member interests.

This mix of responsive and proactive effort has resulted in member leads attending delegate training or an ‘organising for power’ course; the “#what do I really do?” campaign; increased membership; pay equity claims lodged for the university sector; progress on a single academic collective agreement for Te Pūkenga; Tiakina te Taiao, TEU’s climate action network; successful U35, Rainbow & Pasikica hui and of course the impressive “8 for 8” university fair pay campaign that has seen members taking action across the country.

It has been a privilege to lead TEU over the last two year. Our collective enthusiasm and hope, our strong values, and the mahi of staff and members has not only got us through, but has made TEU effective, influential, and well positioned to face any future challenges or rollercoaster times.

Tina finishes her term as president in January, handing over the mantle to Julie Douglas.