Te Tumu Whakarae | National President’s Welcome.

By Tina Smith

Kia ora koutou katoa

The start of a new year is usually a time of hope, goals, and plans.

Before moving on to talk through our hopes, goals, and plans, it’s important to acknowledge the moment we live in.

2022 has started with more challenges from COVID-19. The new strain, Omicron, brings uncertainty and even fear with reports of its transmissibility and anticipated spread. We have already been through two tough years, especially our colleagues in Auckland – ngā piki, ngā heke.

Staff have been amazingly resilient to date, and we will all need to continue to look after each other and be supportive to ensure everyone stays safe. The health and safety of all members is imperative. Please be respectful of, and supportive to, any members whose circumstances or views may be different to yours. As a union, we care about our most vulnerable and we are respectful of difference. These values, respect, caring, support, and standing together and helping each other are core to unionism – awhi atu, awhi mai. Work is already underway to ensure staff concerns are listened to by employers and that members are fully involved in developing transparent plans for institutions that keep everyone safe.

We do have goals and plans for 2022 and we are determined to progress these for members so all activities will go ahead this year, albeit that many will likely move online.

A major project is our Te Tiriti rules review, part of our ongoing journey and commitment to be a Te Tiriti-led organisation. Our Te Koeke Tiriti framework, and the four whāinga already guide our decisions and actions, so now we are working to ensure our rules and structures are also Te Tiriti-based. The high-level principles from this work will go to conference in May 2022 for approval before the detailed writing is undertaken. We encourage all members to attend the workshops and hui that will occur in every branch.

From the hui and workshops so far, members have made it clear that we must ensure that core to our rules and structures is he tāngata | the people, acting in union – tū kotahi, tū kaha. So, we need everyone to stand with us with all our campaigns and actions this year. Together, we are strong – tātou, tātou e!

Workloads are a major issue for members. We commenced our workloads campaign late last year with ‘say no if it can’t be done’ and asked members to consider ‘what is the worst that will happen if you say no?’ On 25 March we will take action, together, by having a national tea break to highlight the importance of taking our breaks and looking after ourselves with fair and reasonable workloads.  

We will continue our fight for better pay and conditions with a number of actions, such as lodging two pay equity campaigns, one for library assistants and the other for administrative staff in the university sector.

The working party with Te Pūkenga will continue with their work on a single academic staff collective agreement, and begin work on a single allied/general staff collective agreement alongside other unions, with a strong emphasis on parity of pay across all parts of the network. The draft operating model must now be developed into an operating structure that empowers staff, academic and allied, to provide great learning opportunities for all, within a culture of wellbeing.

The 2021 Academic Freedom conference outcomes will become part of a national conversation for structural change to enable academic freedom to be exercised in all areas of the sector. Alongside this the Tiakina te Taiao Network will be developing collaborations and actions for a sector wide strategy around climate action and working towards the tertiary education sector playing its role in a sustainable and equitable zero-carbon Aotearoa through Just Transition.

The tertiary sector is essential for the future of Aotearoa New Zealand. Members deserve decent pay and conditions. We need all members to lean into and support these campaigns and stand together to send a strong message that things need to be better in our sector. 2022 will be a year of challenges but together we are strong, and together we will achieve positive outcomes for the future of our sector – tū kotahi, tū kaha!