Ngā mihi – and thanks for joining us.

My, hasn’t it been a year of lots ofhighs and lots of lows. But as our whāinga tell us: we will get through the lows because we stand together, and we must celebrate the highs of all we have achieved in union – ngā piki, ngā heke.

It’s also been a year of major change for Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union. There have been significant changes forced upon the tertiary education sector and all parts of Aotearoa as part of the necessary response of Covid-19. Emergency remote teaching and support work have been the order of the day. From garages, kitchen tables, and desks in home offices, tertiary education staff have pulled out all the stops to keep teaching, learning, research, support work, administration, and much more going.

We have learnt much from this extraordinary moment as a union. We have learnt how to keep relationships strong using zui (Zoom meetings). But we’ve also learnt that face-to-face engagement both in institutions and in TEU are crucial to our very human-centred work.

There’s also been change in the direction of the tertiary education sector overall. We’ve won a commitment to end the market competition which has created havoc for our polytechnics – actually, havoc for all parts of the tertiary education sector. Our voice has been clear– education is NOT a business.

The establishment of a single network of vocational education provision is a start towards ensuring that across Aotearoa, whānau, employers, communities, iwi and hapū get the courses they need and the support they deserve.

There has also been major change in TEU with my predecessor Sharn Riggs retiring after 30 years of leading union action in the sector.

We said farewell to Huirangi Waikerepuru and Kāterina Daniels our kaumatua, whose passing leaves a hole in the heart of TEU.

So how have we survived this tumultuous and exciting year? We have responded strongly together to the changes we have faced because we have clear goals and whāinga to guide us – tātou, tātou e.

Our voice has been strong. Our voice has been heard. Together we have ensured the new Tertiary Education Strategy commits us all to ensuring education is accessible and inclusive. This means we are all required now to tackle the racism and other negative attitudes which continue to mar genuine access to education in Aotearoa.

By standing together we have made the Government commit to a review of the funding model for tertiary education institutions –and there is a clear sense that the model will include baseline funding that meets the actual cost of running universities, wānanga, and polytechnics is on the cards.

Several decades of underfunding and policies that have forced the tertiary education sector to be reliant on ‘other revenue’ such as international student fees has proved highly problematic. For this reason we are pleased the review is happening, but want to say again to Ministers Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson, right now, that the change is not happening quick enough. We are still seeing opportunities cut, as Michael Gilchrist, Te Tumu Whakarae-National President has said.

Our research and policy work has meant a wider conversation has occurred around both the Performance-Based Research Fundand Educational Performance Indicators. There seems to be a growing agreement that when you tag money to key performance indicators in tertiary education this leads to perverse incentives.

We’ve also tackled the issue of insecure work, launching our Secure Work = Better Futures campaign and getting dozens of workers off fixed-term agreements and into permanent work. This is great news for working people as it allows them to plan for their future and their families.

We’ve been able to make these and manymore gains for learners, staff, communities, and education more broadly because we took purposeful action together.

TEU members make sure they are everywhere,and are seen and heard. We have taken to the streets, held stalls at dozens of campuses, and at the steps of parliament demanding funding that will allow us to truly provide quality education and pay that reflects the effort staff put in.

Together we’ve attended institutional council meetings, subsidiary board meetings of the new New Zealand Institute ofSkills & Technology (NZIST), and met regularly with Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives demanding strategic and operational planning which puts the well-being of staff and learners front and centre.

There have been over 30 collective negotiations led by TEU staff and backed up by picket lines, in stopworks and demonstrations, most notably at Wintec, NorthTec, the University of Auckland, and Victoria University of Wellington. All this action saw us achieve pay increases of between 1% and 3.5%.

Over the last year, branch representativesand TEU staff have worked behind the scenes in hundreds of personal cases and have written challenges to dozens of major restructuring proposals ensuring members livelihoods are protected.

We’ve used five major reports and dozens of letters to seek positive change across the tertiary education sector. In social media we’ve promote Pacific Language Weeks and Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. We’ve stood firm on the rights of the rainbow community, and promoted days of action against bullying, and much more.

We’ve also had media coverage from the New Zealand Herald to Radio New Zealand on issues around staff well-being,unwarranted restructuring and job cuts, and TEU research.

All of this is made possible because weare nearly 10,000 members strong. We have staff in six regional offices supporting members daily in personal and collective actions. We have a budget of over $5million that is spent effectively to advance our collective vision. And we have held 35 full days of member meetings nationally; at least six member zui every month for national reps; and have held dozens of branch meetings every month to ensure members drive the direction of TEU.

Our union is strong because of all our people power – Tū kotahi, tū kaha. Our union is strong because we have clear goals summed up in one statement found across our publications:

We actively defend and promote quality tertiary education that is accessible to all New Zealanders. Our system will be founded on an active Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationship, publicly valued, funded, and owned; collegially governed, and, equitable.

Because we are united, passionate, and active, the tertiary education sector is healthier, more focused on people, and kinder.

Please check out more details of how we’ve worked together since May 2019 in our TEU Annual Report 2020 and if you want a printed copy to keep as a memento of all we’ve done get in touch at

Tū Kotahi, tū Kaha – stay strong, stay in union, and keep taking care of other.

Sandra Grey, National Secretary

Click here to see the full 2020 Annual Report Facebook Live Address