While 2021 has started in similar style to 2020, there’s hope on the horizon for AEU members. Last year highlighted your enormous capacity to be adaptable, to perform under pressure, and to show great resilience. Like you, we hit the ground running this year, with a return to the workplace and to face-to-face visits and meetings around the state.
Our members’ safety at work is still a key focus for the union and we will continue to advocate for your needs as we embark on what will hopefully become an increasingly normal year. This includes our push for educators – particularly those working in special schools and the disability sector – to be high on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine.
We are also focused on achieving ‘yes’ votes in the ballots for both of the new early childhood sector agreements, the VECTEAA and EEEA, and the ongoing work of helping to make sure the TAFE Agreement is correctly implemented in workplaces.
With negotiations for a new Schools Agreement underway, the recruitment and retention of AEU members is in the spotlight. The more members we have, the better placed we are to campaign for a fairer deal for staff employed in our public schools.
If you know of any colleagues who have not yet joined the union, give them a nudge and suggest that they should sign up! We say it all the time because it’s true – most new members tell us that the only reason they hadn’t already joined was because no one had ever invited them to.
In any agreement year, being a member of the AEU is the best way of contributing to the discussions and staying up to date on how negotiations are progressing. More generally, union membership means working collectively to improve pay and working conditions for you, your colleagues and the profession more broadly.
We know that sub-branches with a high level of union membership are best placed to ensure staff have a say in the issues affecting their professional lives and in making sure their workplace conditions are properly upheld.
Beyond that, it means access to expert advice and support, including legal representation if needed. It means plenty of professional learning opportunities. It means understanding the structures we’ve set up, such as your workplace consultative committee, to ensure your rights are properly implemented at the local level. And it means being part of the strongest national voice for public education.
AEU Victoria has already welcomed 878 new members in the first two months of this year. As I write this column, that brings our branch to 49,256 members. Help us reach our target of 51,500 by the end of the year. If you would like an AEU organiser to attend your workplace to help run an induction session for new and potential members, please get in touch and we will happily organise a visit – in line with your COVIDSafe plan, of course.
Together, we are stronger. We also know that sub-branches with a high level of union membership are best placed to ensure staff have a say in the issues affecting their professional lives and in making sure their workplace conditions are properly upheld. Reach out to your AEU organiser for support and recruitment advice.
Online engagement allowed us to meet many more members across the state in 2020. We saw a lot of new faces in regional meetings and webinars, including many who were previously prevented from attending because of geographical distance or caring responsibilities. We don’t want to lose that connection; and will be working to find the best ways of continuing to reach as many members as possible.
In other news, we were pleased to be able to draw on the disaster and welfare fund to help cover the loss of personal resources for nine members affected by the fire that destroyed part of Puckapunyal Primary School in December. We are also supporting members requiring legal representation and meeting financial hardship requests for some currently doing it tough. I’d like to thank the branch executive for their hard work in responding to these requests, including the decision to suspend union fees for casual members last year, enabling us to look out for those in need.