Hello all. Happy 2016, and sorry I’ve been somewhat absent, but amusing a 6 year old banshee full time is (as most of you know) not for the faint hearted, and so I’ve been somewhat distracted.
I was hoping to have another few days before I burst into action. I even avoided posting about the charter school shenanigans from last week. Perhaps I’ll reflect on that one later. For now, I want to share with you some thought on our unions…
I’ve seen a few people over the years saying they don’t know what they pay their union fees for, what’s the point joining, and so on. I saw another such comment this week, and it got me thinking that people really must not be aware of how bad things were before unions. Do people truly not know what huge benefit they are to workers? Perhaps not.
I guess if one has never worked in a non-unionised profession and seen the difference, it’s easy to take what benefit they bring for granted.
So, for those not in the know, here are just a few of the benefits of being in a union:
Wages: Your union works hard to get and maintain decent pay for us. If you think we are underpaid now, just look at the information on wages for non-unionised workers, for example…
PD: Your union provides professional development year-round. Did you know you can apply to your local branch to go on any of the union’s courses and the chances are they’ll be able to fund it for you or contribute? Coming up soon are the Pasifika Fono, the New Educators Network hui, to name but two great events. And there are all these ones. Go on – take advantage of this free and fabulous union PD.
Information: Your union keeps up to date with all of the changes and proposals relating to education and shares that information with you via branches, emails, press releases, social media, and meetings. Read the emails, check your branch’s Facebook page, go to meetings – make use of what is there. Because although the union does all this, you still have to make the effort to read it and be involved. It’s worth it.
ACET: This was hard fought for by NZEI, so that expert teachers would not have to take up management positions if they wanted to earn more but could stay in the classroom and teach. Members wanted it, the union got it. And it was achieved through hard bargaining.
Release time: This is another thing that was fought for and won. There was a time when there was no release time. That time could easily come again if the unions become weakened.
Legal help: If you need legal help, your union is there, whether the problem’s large or small. And all for FREE.
Advice: The unions’ helplines are there to help with all work-related queries. They are free and only one call away.
Death Benefit: When an NZEI union member dies, the family gets a lump sum from the union. Other unions may also do this – it’s worth checking.
Annual Conference: Amazing speakers, brilliant networking, loads of professional development and sharing, and all paid for by the union. Flights, mileage, accommodation and food. Again, ask your local branch if you want to go. Last year was my first one and it was well worth going.
I get that there are frustrations – I’ve had my own gripes – but here’s the thing; the union is only as good as its members. If something’s not working for you, tell them.
If we want the union to be strong, we must add our own strengths to it. In much the same way that teachers cannot tip information into a student’s head and make them learn, the union cannot help a member who doesn’t participate.
Or, to butcher an idiom, they can lead us horses to water and even ensure it’s drinkable, but we still have to tilt our own heads down and slurp.
Read the emails, go to meetings, pick up the pamphlets on the staff room coffee table.
Trust me, it is worth it.
NZ Union websites:
E tū: http://www.etu.nz/