Negotiations for a new Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Agreement have formally commenced, after an unnecessary delay by TAFEs and the Andrews government. The current agreement, covering teachers in the 12 standalone TAFE institutes, expires in October.
The union has canvassed members statewide via sub-branches and the ‘State of our TAFEs’ survey to build a log of claims highlighting that the core issues members have flagged should be addressed in our ongoing discussions regarding the new multi-enterprise agreement (MEA).
Following member meetings at TAFE campuses around the state in February and March, the AEU TAFE and Adult Provision Council (made up of elected TAFE teacher members), endorsed the union’s log of claims, which was served on the Victorian TAFE Association (VTA) in early April. The VTA is acting as a bargaining representative for the TAFE institutes.
The key concerns raised have been excessive workloads, with most members reporting that they work a full day of unpaid overtime on average every week, citing cuts in course delivery hours, excessive administration duties and difficult relations with management as the chief causes. Online delivery has only exacerbated long working hours and intensity.
“Almost two thirds of TAFE teachers are actively considering quitting the industry, with morale so low,” says Elaine Gillespie, vice president of TAFE and Adult Provision. “That’s why it’s so important that we rally together to support one another in pressing our case and actively recruit new members, so that we can present a strong, united front as we campaign for a new agreement that will benefit all TAFE teachers and prevent talent draining from the industry.”
“We were facing a chronically underfunded sector.”
Elaine Gillespie, Vice President of TAP and Adult Provision
Elaine says the current TAFE Agreement, which provided major improvements in working conditions, is a perfect example of what can be achieved when AEU members work together to secure a better deal.
“We were facing a chronically underfunded sector thanks to the Abbott/Turnbull government slashing funding for apprenticeships and aggressively pushing contestable funding policies,” she says.
“We also faced employers, through the VTA, pushing for increased teacher workloads while keeping the majority of workers on insecure short-term or casual contracts and gutting penalty rates.”
AEU members stood up to be counted. “Our TAFE members rallied together to apply constant pressure to the state government, calling for a new agreement that respected the highly skilled teaching workforce, many of whom have left high-paying industries because they want to educate and support the next generation of workers coming through.”
As a result of a sustained campaign by the AEU and its TAFE members, the 2018 MEA locked in a 23.7% pay increase over four years with no cuts to penalty rates. The agreement also brought improvements for many teachers thanks to structured workplans, and converted hundreds of members from insecure casual work into secure, permanent employment.
Elaine says the AEU is heading into current negotiations in a stronger position. “Off the back of the change in federal government – one that publicly supports the central role of public TAFEs – and with a state election coming up in November, we have a real opportunity to achieve meaningful change that will improve the working lives for Victoria’s TAFE teachers.”
The union aims to build on the 2018 agreement to improve conversion rates, address excessive workloads, lock in further salary increases and address the way ‘in-class’ assessment is allocated in workplans.
Elaine says an improved TAFE agreement will only be achieved through an active and coordinated union campaign. “By working together, building up our membership numbers, and organising highly visible actions, we can keep up the pressure on the Andrews government to go further and secure an even better deal.”