TEU general staff representative Grant Bush is an Infrastructure Architect in the Information Technology Services department at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | The University of Canterbury. Reflecting on TEU’s soon to be released Briefing to the Minister of Education, Bush provides some thoughts on the contribution of staff to tertiary education, and the critical importance of staff wellbeing to the future of the sector.

Over the past three years, there is a lot the Labour Government can be commended for, but much more needs to be done in the tertiary education sector.

A thriving tertiary education sector is the foundation for a prosperous Aotearoa. Yet the commercial model of funding that plagues the sector is counter to the culture of tertiary institutions, teaching, learning and research. We need to stop the drive of ‘more for less’ and instead focus on creating better outcomes for our people and our society.

University, polytechnic, wānanga and community tertiary education provider staff have made an enormous contribution to their institutions in the last year and it is time to recognise this across all roles by paying the living wage and addressing the problems of increasingly unmanageable workloads and increasing job insecurity.

Our institutions need to be exemplary employers, leading the way in how good employers should be, not falling into the same old patterns of the past. General staff are the forgotten workers in our institutions, but all staff contribute to the success of our places of teaching, learning and research, from the cleaning staff to the vice-chancellor. All staff deserve conditions and pay that recognise the time, skill, and effort they put into the sector.

Public service no longer has the benefits that made it attractive in the past, and as more staff face increased job insecurity, and with workloads increasing as staff are stretched thin, the sector cannot afford to lose dedicated and experienced staff, or risk making a career in tertiary education an unattractive prospect.

The wellbeing of staff is critically important to the success of any organisation, and the Government needs to commit to focusing on improving wellbeing in the sector, through increased funding, freedom and fairness in the tertiary education sector. TEU’s Briefing to the Minister of Education calls for fair and equitable working conditions for all staff to enable our shared vision for a sector that works for all New Zealanders.