Every year the IEU runs its Activist Conference to inspire dedicated members to get more actively involved with their Union.
This Easter break 17 members attended the event at Leura and enjoyed hearing from IEU organisers as well as Rail Bus Train Union National Secretary Bob Nanva and AMWU Secretary Steve Murphy, talking about the Streets ice cream campaign.
Activist Alex Wharton said he hoped to come away from the conference with an increased understanding of the powerful role he could play in shaping the education agenda at a grass roots level.
“We would not be where we are today, as a society/profession, if it were not for unions. Being a union activist means advocating for what is right, giving a voice to the voiceless, representing those who also want to have a say, what is more satisfying than that?
“All teachers are activists in one sense simply by what they do in their own professional practice. Imagine the power we could have, if we all worked together.”
The ACTU Change the Rules campaign was an important theme at the conference.
Carinya Christian School Gunnedah teacher Alex said he supported the campaign and wants to change the rules that are most inflexible and limit aspects of teachers’ work, or ones that are outdated.
Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School Learning Support teacher and careers advisor Deborah Lloyd said unions are the most effective way to provide working people with a collective voice.
“It’s important that if you can or are ever in a position to advocate for working people, then you should. I hope to offer my workplace a more skillful representative who is more effective in servicing the needs of our members, no matter what might arise.”
In relation to Change the Rules, Deborah said the rule that could really use some attention is the casualisation of the workforce. One in four Australians workers are casual, which means they live with insecure work arrangements, no paid holidays, no superannuation or sick leave, she said.
Judy Young TAS Coordinator, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic College Burraneer, said a workplace activist can work towards bringing about social change.
“An IEU rep has the opportunity to advocate for the professional and industrial rights of teachers and auxillary staff at their place of work,” she said.
At the conference she was “working toward gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of union activities and reflect on the role of unions in industrial relations and to reflect on their impact enhancing the relationship between employee and employer in individual workplaces”.
“The ACTU is addressing significant concerns in the contemporary workplace in the Change the Rules campaign. The campaign aims to address significant workplace inconsistencies that deny workers rights to secure and stable employment.
“Today's workplace is competitive and there is pressure to work harder for longer. This needs to be addressed to maintain employee wellbeing.
“Workers are unable to plan for the future due to workplace inconsistencies like casualisation, individualisation of contracts and international trade agreements that bypass Australian employees.
“In the education workplace, job security needs addressing along with real wage growth. Casualisation of the workforce is a burden for teachers and auxillary staff. These concerns need to be addressed to enable teachers and auxillary staff to plan their careers and predict their future life directions.”
Southern Cross Vocational College Teacher Tonia Hales said an activist is someone who works hard for what they believe in.
“As educators we can see the need and realise we must advocate for issues that affect us and our students. As IEU reps we are in the position to push for change, make changes, be a voice for others all with the backing of the IEU. Coming from a trade union family, the need for employees rights and fair go for all resonates with my beliefs,” Tonia said.
“As a relatively new Union rep. I hope to gain greater knowledge about the union movement and industrial relations. In my workplace employees are as varied as chefs to SCS industry staff so there is a need to serve all.
“In education the pressure on teachers is growing, with difficulties we did not dream of 10 years ago. Social media, mobile phone misuse in the classroom, large class sizes are just a few areas that have a negative impact on staff. Teachers do not have all the answers and require support in these and other areas. Wages for teachers are not up to par, with the workload and the added pressures and responsibilities in an ever changing world.”