For everyone From your president: Standing strong, together

AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace

Welcome to another busy term of action and campaigning for the AEU across all our sectors! 

Our members in Victoria’s 12 standalone TAFEs have voted to take protected industrial action as the next step in their campaign for a better agreement. Some 95% of eligible members voted in favour, with high levels of support for each of the 16 types of action proposed, including work bans and stoppages, due to start on 22 April. 

This is a big step for TAFE members, who did not have the right to take industrial action under their current or previous agreements because of former limitations in the Fair Work Act. Negotiations have been underway for the past 20 months, throughout which the Allan government and TAFE employers have failed to put a fair and reasonable offer on the table. Stepping up the campaign will be critical in our fight to get the Allan government and TAFE employers to listen to our demands. 

TAFE teachers play a critical role in preparing and educating skilled workers for Victorian industry, community, and economy. This is more critical than ever, with the state facing a skills shortage across many industries, including disability, aged care, healthcare, early childhood education, and many trades. Greater investment in TAFE and its valuable teaching workforce is the only way to attract and retain the staff needed to address these shortages.

Greater investment in TAFE teachers is the only way to retain staff and address critical skills shortages across the state.

Meanwhile, school funding remains a key focus for the AEU. In March, more than 50 AEU school leaders met with members of the state government, including Deputy Premier and Education Minister Ben Carroll and Treasurer Tim Pallas, to promote the importance of state and federal governments delivering 100% of the schooling resource standard (SRS) to public schools. 

In those meetings, followed by a press conference on the Parliament House steps, principals called on the state government to maintain pressure on the Albanese government to lift the federal contribution. They also highlighted the need for the Victorian government to take bold and urgent steps to address staffing shortages across the public school sector, which is having a devastating impact on workloads of staff and the education of students.

Their stories were compelling, describing the heavy lifting schools and staff are doing every day to try to fill the gaps created by a lack of funding and the loss of teachers and support staff – with too many leaving the profession due to stress and burnout. They called on Labor MPs to step up and stop pandering to lobbying by the private school sector at the expense of the majority of children in this country, who attend our public schools.

Our schools funding campaign is having an impact, with the key states of Victoria, NSW and Queensland holding out on signing up to the federal government’s measly offer of a 2.5% increase in its contribution to public schools. But we need to keep the pressure on.

The AEU will be holding For Every Child campaign activities around the country this term, sending a clear message to the Prime Minister that he must keep his pre-election promise to fund public schools adequately and equitably. Anything less is unacceptable. As we said on the steps of parliament, we’ve waited ten years for fair funding; we’re not going to wait any longer.

There is also considerable activity in the early childhood sector. Bargaining is underway on multiple fronts, due to the myriad employers who operate in this sector. National bargaining is still in progress, with parties waiting for a federal government response to the unions’ joint claim for a 25% salary increase.

Bargaining will commence in May for the two key benchmark agreements for community and local government kindergartens, the VECTEA and EEEA. Last year, members played a crucial role in developing the log of claims, which focuses on improved salaries and addressing workload concerns, particularly through the provision of increased planning time.

With the first of the 50 new government-owned early childhood centres due to open next year, we are also pursuing a new agreement to cover the teachers and educators who will work in these centres. The good news is that these employees will be employed by the Department of Education, and we expect their salaries and conditions to set a new benchmark for the sector.

Finally, we have commissioned Monash University to work with the AEU on a key piece of schools sector research over the next 12 months. We will be directly engaging our members working in schools to contribute their views on what the profession needs now, for the future. This will help inform our work and our campaigning with members as we commence negotiations for the next schools agreement, and in the lead up to the 2026 state election. Members are encouraged to participate in the various stages of this research, beginning with a survey for all principal class, teachers and ES.

Standing strong, together we can ensure that the voice of AEU members is heard loud and clear by our governments, employers, and across the broader community.

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