Following morning sessions on the first day of the 2019 Branch Presidents’ Meeting, Wednesday 6 November, Branch Presidents and staff from the TEU head office joined polytechnic students and association representatives outside parliament in actions in support of ITP staff and students, and against cuts affecting polytechnics across the country.
Outside the gates of parliament, amidst chants, placards and waitata, TEU members staged a mock bake sale to raise funds for polytechs besieged by cuts. With cuts at NMIT, MIT, Whitireia, WelTec, and Northtec, a petition was signed by members of the public calling for an end to Government funding of PTEs and for this much needed funding to be redirected where it is needed the most – the polytechnic sector and those institutions, staff, students and communities most impacted by staffing cuts.
Led by TEU Tumu Whakarae National President Michael Gilchrist and Branch Presidents, the action then moved onto parliament lawn, where TEU members and supporters stood in the formation of New Zealand, indicating the communities and institutions throughout the country that are most impacted by staff cuts and instability.
According to Louise Simpson, TEU Branch President WINTEC,
‘A lot of us are quite shocked to hear the cuts that are being made. Over 50 jobs have gone from Weltec, Whitireia, and more on the line at MIT. We are reeling. We didn’t realise the cuts were so widespread. It’s happening right across the country. It felt good to be in Wellington and to take action at parliament. I think all of us felt a bit more empowered being able to do something right there’.
TEU Tumu Whakarae National President Michael Gilchrist was clear in stating the need for a 10 per cent increase in funding for polytechs to stabilise the sector, and lessen the impacts on staff, students and their communities. As Louise Simpson notes, this increased funding is particularly important in stabilising impacted polytechs as we head into the most significant change the sector has experienced in recent years,
‘Cuts need to stop. Until the proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) comes into existence, it needs to stop. We know change is coming, and most of us are quite excited and are ready for that change, but we need to stabilise now. Stop the hack and slash, stabilise so that if there are changes that need to come with the establishment of NZIST, then that can be well thought-out change. It’s extremely short sighted to leave these institutions, that are so important to our regions and to the future of New Zealand, out in the cold’.
The morning’s actions at parliament preceded the TEU oral submission to the Select Committee on the Reform of Vocational Education, and was covered by Te Ao Māori News.