Solidarity sparks union renewal programme in Asia-Pacific

published 12 June 2022 updated 17 June 2024

Thanks to the support of the Australian Education Union (AEU), the Education International’s Asia-Pacific (EIAP) regional office/Council of Pacific Education (COPE) was able to organise a strategic planning meeting on trade union renewal for members of the Fiji Teachers’ Union and the Fijian Teachers’ Association.

The meeting aimed at developing new strategies to organise and mobilise the membership, prepare grassroots/workplace representatives for leadership, build a narrative around common issues, communicate that narrative for broader advocacy and outreach and foster partnerships through effective communication.

The EI affiliates in Fiji, Fijian Teachers Association and Fiji Teachers Union, with the support of AEU and EIAP/COPE were engaged in a two-day intensive strategic planning meeting on trade union renewal.

Fourteen participants from both Fiji’s unions attended this meeting held from 28-29 May in Nadi, Fiji. The meeting was facilitated by AEU Deputy Federal Secretary Nicole Calnan, Deputy President of the New South Wales Teachers Federation (affiliated to AEU) Henry Rajendra, and EIAP Chief Regional Coordinator Anand Singh.

The EIAP’s regional research on trade union renewal, a basis

The EIAP’s regional research – Union Renewal in the Education Sector: Prospects for Asia Pacific – was used as a basis for developing a programme for renewal for each union.

Informed by the research, participants highlighted the importance of working towards achieving a government-funded quality public education system for all, their union’s strengths and weaknesses, union structures, priorities and where they can further develop.

“Both unions identified their provision of services to members as a strength and increasing member engagement and participation as something they needed to build,” acknowledged Singh.

He added his satisfaction that participants understood the “potential to make history” of such a renewal programme, discussions being centred around “change”, “hope” and a “joint commitment” to build union and political power, to achieve the public education their country deserves.

“Through this project, we are trying to build union power by empowering union members, union leadership at school level and improving the way education unions engage with other stakeholders such as parents, community and ministries,” Singh further underlined.

FTA General Secretary Fijian Teachers Association, Puala Manumanunitoga, also stressed: “Thanks to EIAP and AEU, we are presented with this important opportunity to engage in constructive reflexion on our union and our work. We are eager to take this project forward to strengthen our union and build a more engaged and empowered membership.”

Upcoming two-day renewal programme

Taking note of the priorities identified and the clear commitment from both unions, AEU proposed a two-day renewal programme revolving around training workplace union representatives and supporting the professional needs of the Fijian unions’ members through a teacher development programme. The Fijian unions and EIAP regional office agreed on this renewal programme, to be led by the latter.