You are the QTU and the QTU is you
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 8, 12 November 2021, page no.23
At trade-unionism’s core is the recognition that individual workers are in an unequal power relationship with their employers. An individual needs the pay more than most employers need that individual’s skills, knowledge and attitudes; therefore the employer has power over the worker. That power imbalance starts to shift when workers choose to mobilise, organise and bargain collectively. Alone we are just one wave, but together we are a whole ocean.
The collective voice is not just important for achieving pay rises and improved working conditions – it can also be used to highlight and address other issues in the workplace. For example; management expectations, funding cuts, compliance overload, unrealistic work directives, access to PD, workload, and matters impacting the student experience can all be addressed at branch level. The seat of power for you as a QTU member rests at your branch meetings, which is why the QTU needs you to be at those meetings, so that your voice can be heard.
In fact, everyday member activism has very little to do with marching on Parliament, stopping work or other union activities promulgated through the media. Branch meetings are the epicentre of member activism, but you have to attend to make a difference.
Branch meetings are open to all members of the QTU. You don’t need to have a loud voice, carry a placard or wear a campaign shirt to raise an issue for discussion at a branch meeting. Branch meetings are considered one of the best sources of information available for teachers to tap into, and they are a great opportunity to connect with other educators.
Branch motions don’t stay within the branch. They go on from your local branch to be heard by a much larger meeting of elected QTU delegates, to be debated and voted on. Even if you say it quietly, your idea from your branch meeting can actually translate into policy through the democratic processes of your Union. QTU policy is driven by its members. At a branch meeting, you can give true grass-roots direction to the mighty QTU TAFE Division wave.
I’ve spent the past nine months listening to TAFE educators. I am aware that many of you feel like you are drowning in a sea of compliance, micro-management, competing priorities, unrealistic expectations, and a reported indifference to the delivery needs of TAFE educators. Some of you don’t even know who your local Workplace Representatives or branch officials are. Some of you are waiting for someone to ask you to stand up against the whole range of assaults on working conditions and work/life balance that TAFE educators are currently facing. Some of you are out meeting with key politicians and ministers who are responsible for TAFE funding and operations.
In the lead up to the federal election, it is essential that we increase our activism and ensure that politicians know that TAFE is essential to Queensland’s economic and social recovery. It is essential we let them know that the funding available is not enough and that TAFE deserves more. Queensland deserves more. If we don’t do this essential work, nothing can change. The Union is the strength behind the wave, not the wave itself.
Activism is fun and gives us a sense of making a difference. It pulls us out of the sinking depths of the sea and brings us towards the safety of the shore. We feel better when we are doing one small thing to help, and if all 48,000 QTU members do one small thing to help TAFE, we can make a huge difference together.