Tertiary Education Union

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Forum on the Productivity Commission and Tertiary Education


The Clocktower Building is where they have filmed the latest series of Mastermind and also where QPEC held its 2016 forum and AGM on Saturday 30 April.  The crowd was fairly small but we had a great range of speakers.

The focus was the Productivity Commission’s review of the tertiary education system.

David Cooke, our tertiary spokesperson, started off by discussing the ‘buzz words’ adopted by the Productivity Commission in it 78 questions, and what these were likely to mean in terms of policies as tertiary education becomes reduced to a cost-cutting economic system.  David suggested we needed to respond positively by offering alternative visions to that of the Productivity Commission.  One point that a couple of speakers raised was the view of the system as characterised by inertia.  Anyone who knows tertiary education, it was pointed out, is very clear that it is far from ‘inert’, whatever that means.

In response, Jane Kelsey said that there were some real issues with the review.  The system of tertiary education is governed by the Education Act (1989) and its amendments, and yet the Act is never even mentioned in the Productivity Commission’s  background papers.  She said the principles of the Education Act, especially the critic/conscience clause, are being undermined by the review.

Ian Shirley gave a wonderful talk about the history of the struggle against the New Right, and I will not be able to do it justice here. He went right back to the 80s and reminded us that Treasury frame education as a private good, not a public good, right back then.  Treasury’s work at that time constituted what Ian called the “expansion of markets into spheres of life where they do not belong:.  We have been living the legacy of that ever since.

He called on us to reframe the whole debate – to reframe the debate from econospeak to societyspeak, and to have our own vision of what tertiary education should look like – beyond critique to reconstruction.

Sandra Grey carried on a number of these themes, especially the need to agree on what tertiary education is for.  She took us through the actions the TEU is carrying out to engage with the Productivity Commission, including taking them into universities and polytechnics to see what happens inside.  The alternative view to the ‘inertia’ claim is a sector that is diverse, innovative and creative, dedicated to what they do, focusing on resolving the issues of our times and to lifelong learning.

She outlined an alternative model for tertiary education based on te Tiriti, responsible autonomy (death to steering at a distance!), diversity of provision, the people, and well-supported workforce and student body.

Finally, Linsey from the NZUSA outlined student concerns for a tertiary system oriented to student need.

Later, at the AGM, the teacher unions, the TEU and QPEC made a joint pledge to meet later in the year to nut out a shared vision of, of course, a ‘Quality Public Education’ system.  We are very excited about this, and think it will be very productive.

Liz Gordon

Chair, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)





You and your union… my thinks

danger educated union member.jpgHello 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…

union membership and wages huff post


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.

Take part.

Trust me, it is worth it.

NZ Union websites:




E tū:




Secret NZ trade deal would harm education

top secretA leaked document shows New Zealand has joined a small group  of countries pushing for education to be included in a secret  trade deal, the Trade In Service Agreement (TISA).

Teachers and education academics say that including education in the deal would be bad for teaching and learning.

“The proposed deal would restrict future governments’ rights to regulate the quality and provision of education and protect unique aspects of New Zealand’s education system,” said Tertiary Education Union (TEU) President Sandra Grey.

NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter said this could result in foreign corporations suing any government that sought to legislate against the expansion of charter schools or to improve the quality of private early childhood education services.”

The deal could lead to further commercialisation and privatisation of education, with negative impacts on the equity and quality of education available to Kiwi students.

The TISA agreement would allow for easier access for multi-national private sector trading in services such as banking and healthcare.

Education unions NZEI, PPTA and TEU say the New Zealand government should withdraw its support for the proposal and instead back countries with high performing education systems – including the EU, Japan, Korea and Taiwan – in opposing the inclusion of education in TISA.

“The Novopay fiasco should be sufficient proof that privatisation of the education system is not the way to go,” said PPTA President Angela Roberts.

“But Novopay only affected teachers and support staff.  The kind of  marketisation TISA would open up would be extremely harmful for students’ education.”

Angela Roberts said examples of the impact of including education in TISA would be restrictions on the government purchasing local publications in favour of cheaper standardised foreign publications.

Background information on TISA

Leaked document

For more information or sector-specific comment :

Tertiary Education Union National President Sandra Grey 021 44 176 or 04 801 5098

PPTA President Angela Roberts 04 913 4227 or 021 806 337

NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Paul Goulter, 027 208 1087


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