Editorial: Proudly democratic

“I don’t agree with the QTU’s stance on 'x'. I’m not going to join.” Or “I’m going to resign because I disagree with the Union’s position on 'y'.” How many times have Union Reps heard those reasons for not being a member of the QTU and not contributing to the pay and conditions won by the Union that they enjoy?

We’ve heard it about the marriage equality debate. We’ll hear it around the state election, and any one of a million other things.

It’s no excuse for not joining or being a member of the Union. If you take the benefits, you should pay your way – your membership contribution to the collective work and achievement of the QTU.

A democratic organisation

The QTU is proudly democratic. Our mission is, in part, to be the most democratic and representative voice of the teaching profession in this state. The Industrial Relations Act has the democratic control by members of their unions as one of its objects, and the QTU embraces that wholeheartedly.

Members make the decisions

We are a representative democracy. Four times every year, around 120 elected teachers from around the state meet as the Union’s State Council to decide policy and action. They are teachers and principals and HODs and HOCs and TAFE teachers and deputy principals – rank-and-file members, not paid officials.

They are the supreme decision-making body of the Union – one elected representative from each geographic branch and Area Council in the state. They are elected for three years. The last round of elections was at the start of this year.

They might teach in your school. If you go to your branch meeting, you will see them there.
In between Council meetings, decisions are made by an Executive that meets fortnightly. The Executive has 20 members, of whom only 17 have a vote. Take out the chair and there are 16 votes on any resolution and 15 of those are cast by rank-and-file members elected by the Council.

Every two years, there is a Conference of about 250 elected members who meet for three days in the June vacation to review all the Union’s policy.

There are branch and Area Council meetings around the state at which members can carry resolutions that will be debated at the next Council meeting. Members at a school or workplace can meet and carry resolutions for the Executive to consider.

At least since the early 1990s, no member has been asked to participate in industrial action without the opportunity to cast a vote in a ballot.

Thank you

Each of us should thank the members who participate in the decision-making forums of the QTU. They do so in their own time out of a commitment to the common good.
Thank you, too, to the 2,400 Union Reps around the state who give their time at a school and workplace level to assist and represent members.

That one thing

So I have little time for those people who think that their disagreement on one issue gives them the right to freeload on the work and contribution of others. There may be a matter of conscience of such significance that justifies it. But most of the “reasons” that I hear are poor excuses to cover for an inexcusable decision.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t agree with all the decisions that are made by our decision-making forums. But to paraphrase Henry Lawson’s poem, I’ve been QTU for 35 years and I’m too old to rat. I’ll argue my corner, but at the end of the day, I’m QTU and I accept the democratic decisions.

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said that democracy is the least worst of all forms of government. In a democracy, decisions are still made by those who turn up. If you disagree, argue your case, but accept the collective decisions while you enjoy the results of membership and collective action.

Recruitment campaign

The Union is larger than it ever has been before. As I write this, our membership stands at 44,900. Our aim, by the end of this year, is 45,500 – another 600 to go. We have recruited nearly 3,000 this year already.

The best argument, the best reason, you can give your colleagues why they should belong: on one hand to have their say and to have an effective voice, on the other to pull their weight. They can join now for $30 with no more to pay till February next year.

Another year

Where does the time go? Another year almost gone! I vaguely remember a time when I was young when time seemed to drag. No more, alas.

An annual report at the start of next year will summarise the work of the QTU in 2017. In the meantime, my thanks again to the honorary officials, the members and QTU employees who have contributed to another year’s work and progress, benefiting members and students in Queensland state schools and TAFE colleges.

Enjoy a well-earned summer vacation with family and friends.

Graham Moloney                                                                                                              General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 8, 3 November 2017, p5