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Keep CPIT Voluntary Campaign

Student Membership Referendum To Be Held at CPIT

A referendum on whether membership of the Christchurch Polytechnic Student's Association should be voluntary or compulsory is to be held in mid September, following the recent repeal of the Education (Tertiary Students Association Voluntary Membership) Amendment Act 1998 by the Education Amendment Act 2000.

The Education (Tertiary Students Association Voluntary Membership) Amendment Act 1998 passed by the previous National-led coalition required all students associations to hold referenda on their membership status. As a result, a number of students associations, including the CPSA, changed from compulsory to voluntary membership.

Repeal of the 1998 law was an election promise of the incoming Labour led government elected last year, supposedly to offer "choice", but in reality appears to be motivated by the need for Labour to obtain kudos with students and their associations given that few of the key student demands, such as general fee reductions, abolition of loans and even the reinstatement of the Emergency Unemployment Benefit, will be implemented by the current Government.

In the same way, following the 1984 election, the previous Labour government bought off their trade union supporters by passing legislation permitting the unions to make their membership compulsory. Few other union-friendly policies were implemented by that Government. In the passage of the Employment Relations Act recently Labour turned its back on compulsory union membership. All we are waiting for now is for Labour to catch up with the new millenium and admit there are similar grounds for abandoning compulsory student association membership.

The benefits of voluntary student association membership include: choice, political freedom, greater accountability and less wastage of members funds. Compulsory associations have grown far beyond their originally envisaged role of providing for student representation and now undertake a substantial number of activities, some of those at a niche level benefiting very few people. In the mid 1990s CPSA lost a substantial sum of money on the operation of a hotel in an attempt to improve on the abysmal cafeteria facilities on campus. Most of the services that the CPSA has offered to students are available commercially within a few minutes' distance with very little cost difference. Political activism almost always of a left wing nature brings the charge that associations are affiliates of the Labour Party and Young Labour's vice president has openly stated that the party needs the associations in order to support its political campaigns.

Opponents of VSM have made various claims, such as loss of representation, loss of services and a government agenda to wipe out associations because of their opposition to government policy. However, aside from those services that were not benefiting a significant proportion of the association membership and those that were available close by off campus at similar costs, compulsory associations have very little to offer to students. The claims of being targeted to be wiped out are similar to the dire predictions made by trade unions in 1991; following the passage of the ERA recently, the same unions were trumpeting about how they had survived by adapting to conditions. Waikato University Students Union has operated successfully in the four years that it has had voluntary membership and continues to offer all students a wide range of representation within the university environment.

We urge all students on the CPIT campus to support the right of free choice, by voting Voluntary in the referendum.

For more information about VSM and the campaign, visit our website at http://www.geocities.com/cpit_vsm/

E-mail: cpit_vsm@hotmail.com

ENDS

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