Throughout the 130-year life of the QTU, its members have freely chosen and committed to maintaining and renewing a democratic structure.
The Union’s democracy has three features:
- it is representative
- It is run by members; and
- Participation is voluntary.
A representative democracy
Most of the time, democracy is exercised through representative structures.
Full membership ballots are conducted for:
- election of the QTU’s President, Vice-President and Honorary Vice-President every three years
- statewide industrial action
- approval of enterprise bargaining agreements.
Other decisions are made by representative bodies – the Council, Conference, Executive and Area Council for schools and the Union overall; and the TAFE Council and TAFE Executive for TAFE members.
The Branch : the fundamental building block of the representative structure
Whether it’s schools or in TAFE, the fundamental building block of the representative structure is the branch. For members in schools, there are 103 branches covering the schools in a geographic area. In major cities, these have between 200 and 750 members each; in other areas, they range from 60 to 600 allowing for the large area covered by some branches.
Each branch elects a representative to State Council every three years, two representatives to the Area Council every three years at a different time, and a Conference delegate every two years, with a ballot of all members if required because of the number of nominations.
Council : the main decision-making body of the Union
The Council, which meets four times a year, is the main decision-making body of the Union. It is made up of six elected Senior Officers, 103 branch representatives, a representative from each of 12 area councils, and three representatives from the TAFE Division. That’s 124 members and 120 votes (the General Secretary and the two Deputy General Secretaries don’t have a vote, and the President chairs the Council with a casting vote only), with 119 of those votes cast by elected “rank-and-file” representatives who work every day in schools and TAFE colleges.
In between Council meetings, decisions are made by an Executive elected by the Council every three years.
There are 20 people on the Executive – six Senior Officers, one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representative, one TAFE representative and 12 other Council members. On any issue, 16 of the 20 members have a vote, and 15 of those are rank-andfile members.
Executive meets fortnightly. Using videoconferencing, Executive now has members from across the state.
Every two years, Conference meets for three days in the winter vacation. It comprises the Council plus another 120 delegates from branches, area councils, TAFE and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.
The Conference decides and adopts revised policy consolidated in 15 policy documents covering hundreds of pages.That policy, reviewed by committees and Executive and distributed to branches beforehand, can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of Council.
The rank-and-file members of Executive, Council and Conference make a significant contribution of time on behalf of all members to make decisions on the Union’s direction. It is not always appreciated as it should be.