As Aotearoa experiences an increase in union membership across the country, and with TEU seeing a boost in membership in recent months, TEU’s new Under 35 representative Zoë Port sees opportunities to get younger workers involved and ensure that they have access to the support and justice that unions provide.

TEU Under 35 representative Zöe Port is Deputy Programme Director of the Bachelor of Business at Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa – Massey University School of Management, a Co-Convenor of CTU Stand Up (the youth committee of the Council of Trade Unions). Her PhD research focuses on the wellbeing of workers with multiple jobs.

Port is concerned for the wellbeing and career prospects of younger staff in tertiary education, and worries the sector runs the risk of losing talented and dedicated staff and emerging academics if we don’t push back against proposed job cuts,

“For those of us starting our careers, the current cuts to jobs is more than a little worrying. I worry about the immense talent we may lose, if younger staff have to look elsewhere due to job cuts. I worry for those coming through as doctoral candidates, who may struggle in the short-term to find academic postings in Aotearoa”.

However, it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’, according to Port who as U35 representative will make it a priority to champion the voice of younger staff, in ensuring their perspectives are heard in decisions that impact them,

“Despite the uncertainty, I see opportunities. While there may be difficult change conversations to follow in the future, I want to ensure that the voices of younger working people are heard very clearly in these conversations. I believe we have useful perspectives and creative solutions to offer. We’re also the ones who will likely be dealing with the aftermath of these big decisions for years to come – so it’s only right that we’re part of these conversations”.

Port says that to ensure that younger people have access to the support and justice that unions provide, and to ensure the success of TEU and the union movement into the future, we have to welcome them into union spaces. For Port, TEU’s offer of free membership for those in positions earning under $15,000 per annum and on casual of fixed-term agreements is an important means of increasing membership, representation, support and engagement, but it’s vital TEU members also reach-out to younger colleagues onsite,

“My plea for anyone who engages with these workers on-campus and in the TEU space is to welcome them and support them to speak up, whenever you have the chance. As younger staff, it can be really hard to get a word in, but if you can support young people and those without secure work to speak, I’m sure you’ll find they’re worth listening to”.