With TEU 2019 Annual General Meetings held over August and September, University of Canterbury Branch co-president Garrick Cooper discusses the year that has been, some changes to the make-up of the branch, the role of AGMs in strengthening the union movement and democratic participation in the tertiary education sector.

This year’s Annual General Meeting provided another excellent opportunity to bring our membership together, reflect on the gains we have made over the last year, and re-energise for the year ahead.

TEU Tumu Whakarae | National President Michael Gilchrist spoke with us about the state of play for members, and 2019 recipient of the TEU National Award of Excellence for Academic Freedom, Anne-Marie Brady, spoke with members about the role that our public tertiary education institutions plays as critic and conscience of society.

We farewelled two key union figures in the University of Canterbury Branch, and also welcomed others into leadership positions within the union.

The meeting was the 49th and final for union stalwart and former branch president and National Council member Professor Neville Blampied who has been a key figure and leader within the union movement, the University, and the tertiary education sector for many years. Professor Blampied shared with us some reflections on the importance of training members and organisers, of advocacy, and of lobbying government for positive change in the sector.

Professor Blampied’s knowledge, experience and commitment to the university and to the union movement will be missed, but we feel privileged to be able to build upon the foundation he has helped create.

Warwick Anderson has also stood down as branch co-president, with Rob Stowell from the university’s e-Learning Support team stepping in. Rob’s election to the role is another important step in achieving the right balance between academic and general staff in leadership positions within the branch, and we look forward to the impact this will have in ensuring all perspectives continue to be heard in branch planning and decision-making.

Collective bargaining has been a key activity for the branch over the past year, and the increase we have seen in membership over the past year is an encouraging sign that staff are energised by the gains we have made.

The Branch and university also welcomes a new Vice-Chancellor leading senior management, Cheryl de la Rey, who we are encouraged to see engaging well with the union and meeting with union leadership and members.

Importantly, the branch AGM provides an opportunity to engage directly with our members. It’s important that we use these opportunities to connect with the wider membership and bring everyone into the fold. Moving forward, we would like to see membership increase, and those who are currently members more actively engaged with the union.

The AGM gives members the chance to more pro-actively engage with the union, and it has been encouraging and reaffirming from a branch point of view to see our members energised, engaged and wanting to involve themselves. It reminds us that there is plenty of support in our membership, and plenty of opportunities for members to have their voice heard.