On day two, Thursday 7 November, a Branch Presidents panel discussed success for TEU and in the sector, showcasing what has worked well, and the factors that are critical for success. The session covered success at the branch and national levels, and emphasised the importance of working together, of inclusion, of informing those working in the tertiary education sector of the role of TEU, of acknowledging the various gains made by the union and communicating these gains to member and non-members alike.

A whainga or value within Te Koeke Tiriti, is tatou, tatou e, which states ‘We reach our goals through our collective strength and shared sense of purpose, which are supported through participatory democratic decision-making processes and structures’. The 2019 Branch Presidents’ Meeting provided an exciting opportunity to see this whainga in action, and for BPs to share their own understanding of success from their experiences in their respective branches.

Lois France, Toi Ohomai (Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane and Tokoroa) Branch President (BP) holds the following beliefs.  Success looks like people working together, ‘at our branch we say ‘join us in working for the good of everyone’. People are able to see that the gains we make are for the good of everyone at Toi Ohomai, and they realise that we all benefit. But it’s also about informing people about the role of the union. Success is ensuring everyone in the sector is aware that individuals have a stronger voice together’.

Success is also about leading and being a part of important conversations around shaping best practice and quality programmes. She cites the importance of TEU research into whitestreaming in shaping our understanding of issues facing Māori staff and tauira, of engagement with sector leaders such as Murray Strong who recently met with the Toi Ohomai Branch, and meetings with the Minister of Education, Tertiary Education Council and Ministry officials – all facilitated by TEU – as being indicative of our sector and union success.  

As a union member you are provided a platform from which your voice is heard, and you’re represented when engaging with sector leaders. You can be part of diverse conversations around many issues that you wouldn’t be a part of as an individual.  Crucially, success is about communicating the importance of these conversations to improve the experiences and educational outcomes of tauira, and for improving the working conditions of staff all staff across the sector.   Our key to success is communicating that staff conditions of work are students’ conditions of learning.

The Branch Presidents’ meetings also play a vital role in the success of union activity and of tertiary education. According to France, the BP meetings are about ‘reaching and communicating common ground. It’s really valuable to know you’re not the only one in certain situations, or facing certain issues and it’s good to communicate those commonalities. Having that direct link with head office, who listen to our members and hear our concerns. We can feel confident knowing Head Office are driving relevant and current issues. As members we can support issues that are real for us. I think that’s what success is: an attitude that drives ‘this is me, and this us’. These are the concerns that we are hearing from each of our branches and we are effective together in addressing those issues’.

Finally success is also about acknowledging success, ‘success is not only focusing on priorities, but acknowledging the success in those areas and staying in a positive space. We work with our employers, stakeholders and communities. Success is about being aware of the things of you can do improve lives. Ultimately success is the momentum that we can achieve together as a union’.