The following is a transcription of a speech given by ANU casual representative and National Tertiary Casuals Committee (NTCC) member, Lina Koleilat at last month’s NTEU National Council. Lina’s speech opened debate on Motion G3C, put forward by the NTCC through the NTEU National Executive.
Motion G3C, which calls for a discussion paper on the need to grant the much needed voting rights to NTCC members attending National Council and an NTCC observer seat on National Executive, was ultimately carried but as Lina notes, the process of getting the motion to National Council involved considerable consultation with the executives which watered down the original language and demands of the motion significantly. Lina also responded to dismissive claims made by other councillors that NTEU casuals networks are a ‘special interest group’, that casual members are being sectarian and that all university workers (regardless of their employment status) are equally precarious.
However, members of CUPUW who attended National Council were roused by Lina’s speech and the supporting arguments of other casual comrades who used the motion as a chance to speak candidly to the experience and obstacles of casuals’ organising in the NTEU. Enjoy.
Motion on “Strengthening the Representation of Casualised Workers in the NTEU”
Hello everyone, as a bit of background, this motion started with two simple clauses:
But unfortunately, after negotiating back and forth with National Executive, the two clauses became two pages and this motion is now so watered down. You are only voting today on a discussion paper which is supposed to map out why we need the above two clauses.
- Members of the National Tertiary Casuals Committee (NTCC) asking for voting rights on National Council
- and NTCC asking for an observer seat on National Executive (NE).
I would like to address three arguments that we are often hearing against casual members’ demands:
1) First is that we casually employed members are an “interest group” and that if other interest groups at the NTEU ask for voting rights on Council and a seat on NE mayhem would occur.
Actually, we casual members encourage and support other interest groups in this union and we will stand by them and fight with them if they would like to fight for representation and voting rights, and what is wrong with that? Since the NTEU is a democratic union!
But also it is frankly deeply offensive, comrades, to call casualised members an "interest group".
We are the 40%, we are the underclass of this crumbling higher education sector we are the workers on whose wage theft universities are functioning on. Not one or two universities, the whole sector!
Nobody sees that type of employment as an “Interest”.
2) Second, the argument that NTEU casualised members are here dividing the union or being sectarian.
We casualised workers are not here to divide this union, we stand here with you in solidarity, we are still here, without sick leave without parental leave sometimes without access to the library, to an office or a desk to work on.
We are still here.
Unable to get sick, unable to plan six months ahead, unable to plan a family.
Disrespected, disregarded, excluded from meetings, public events, email lists and every decision making process of our universities.
We are here after many of us have lost our jobs, and we are not even part of the university statistics.
We are not here to divide this union, we are here to fight for our basic rights in this union.
3) Thirdly, the argument we heard yesterday, that we all are insecure workers in the higher education sector.
Yes we are all insecure workers in this economy, the way higher education is being attacked by this foul government makes us all insecure, yes. But some of us comrades are more insecure than others. Casual friends and colleagues are living paycheck to paycheck. Some of us get sick and hospitalized and we lose income for that. Yes we are all insecure but some of us get redundancy pay and some of us don't.
But this is not a fight to the bottom.
Finally to wrap up: We, your casual colleagues are not an interest group, we are not here to divide this union and no we are not all similarly insecure. We are here to fight for a democratic fighting union that is equipped and ready for the current economic crisis because frankly this is not only an issue for the NTEU but an issue for the whole union movement in Australia, especially those unions with tiered membership like ours.
I commend to you this motion today as you all have the right to vote on it and we don't.