Members at Bendigo Kangan Institute (BKI) have been subject to the rogue behaviour of their employer, with numerous reports of staff being required to teach well beyond the maximum 21 face-to-face teaching hours over 21 weeks, as set by the multi employer agreement (MEA).
Several teachers have told us they feel they can’t take sick leave when ill due to concerns about colleagues’ workloads, with all excess teaching duty hours being used to cover normal classes, and many teachers having already completed their yearly quota of hours by the end of October.
Despite the fact that every hour of teaching should be accompanied by a half-hour of preparation, staff at BKI are being rostered to do two to three hours a week supervising students to assess competencies, in addition to a full 800-hour teaching load.
BKI has failed to understand that competency-based training means ‘assessment for learning’ – as opposed to ‘assessment of learning’
BKI has failed to understand that competency-based training means ‘assessment for learning’ – as opposed to ‘assessment of learning’ – involving continuous constructive feedback in order for students to achieve competency. Perhaps this is not surprising, given it failed to provide any training to its managers before October 2019.
As all teachers know, in skills training, every step is a learning experience requiring feedback. Not every student can be assessed on the same day or in same way. One might pass quickly, another might require 20 attempts. On top of this, TAFE teachers have a duty of care to supervise students, often due to health and safety risks, especially when working on machinery or with clients.
We have also become aware that BKI is informing members that excess duty hours are mandatory rather than voluntary and should be included in staff workplans. Worse, we’re hearing reports that teachers are being paid at 0.5 for ETDH instead of the agreed 1.5.
Under the agreement, any request for an employee to do ETDH should be on a case-by-case basis, as there are a variety of circumstances in which a teacher can reasonably refuse to do excess hours, e.g. family responsibilities, limited notice from the employer, risks to health and safety and so on.
An institute cannot broadly expect an employee to complete a set number of ETDH each year, as an employee’s personal circumstances might change.
The AEU has also become aware that staff at Ravenhall Correctional Centre have been rostered to teach 882 hours, with no penalty rates, in defiance of the agreed 800 maximum. Teachers have been informed that they are obliged to do excess teaching hours; can be asked to teach for 42 weeks straight; and that they are not entitled to public holidays.
One teacher at Ravenhall has been teaching two courses in a single class with ongoing enrolments, meaning all students are working at different levels, requiring multiple assessments.
Other employees are being told they must reduce their teaching load (time fraction) or risk being sent to teach at Ravenhall.
Across the TAFE system, teachers’ workplans are due on 1 March. BKI has been trying to push all teachers into having an individual workplan completed by the end of December, which would not give teachers all the information they need, including the institute’s strategic plan covering enrolment numbers and student cohort needs.
BKI has also presented staff with a workplan-related document compiled by the Victorian TAFE Association that misrepresents the agreement, using words such as ‘directed’ instead of ‘agreed’ in relation to duties, and which fails to include ‘supervision’ within the 800 teaching hours.
The MEA, which TAFEs endorsed in 2018, provided increased productivity through a greater span of hours and a genuine 800 teaching hours.
BKI has not explained why, if it needs to ask every teacher to work an extra 150 hours, it does not do the obvious thing and hire more staff.
The AEU is now supporting more than 30 BKI members who have taken grievances to a Workload Dispute Panel, in some cases involving several breaches of the agreement. The AEU has taken six member matters to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), with conciliation hearings not resolving these issues. We have now asked the FWC to deal with these cases jointly. We anticipate that the Fair Work Commission will conduct these hearings and arbitrate on the dispute over the coming months.
TAFE members’ commitment and action in mobilising colleagues and voicing their views has sent a clear message that teachers will not accept these kinds of unilateral actions by employers.
The AEU will continue to fight any attempts to undermine the definition of teaching, increase workloads or in any way erode the hard-won entitlements of its members.