The AEU has presented its log of claims to kickstart negotiations for a new Victorian TAFE Teachers Agreement, which covers members in the 12 standalone TAFEs. Negotiations with the Victorian TAFE Association have commenced, after earlier delays due to COVID.
Negotiations are continuing at Swinburne, following a successful ‘vote no’ campaign in response to the employer’s proposed non-union agreement. This unacceptable offer would have seen its VET teacher salaries fall behind those of their peers at other TAFEs and dual-sector universities. We are calling on Swinburne to return to the bargaining table in good faith on the many clauses yet to be discussed.
Following the appointment of a new CEO, RMIT is in the process of developing a 10-year strategic plan, scheduled to be in place at the end of 2022. As a result, we expect negotiations to be postponed until early 2023. In the meantime, RMIT will effectively extend the current agreement (which expired at the end of 2021), including annual pay rises. TAFE teachers will get a 2% pay rise from November, and all entitlements, benefits and protections outlined in the current enterprise agreement remain in place. This result for RMIT teachers only sees employment conditions for those at Swinburne fall further behind.
Time for federal Labor to back TAFE
At the federal level, we look forward to working with new Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, to ensure that Labor delivers on its pre-election promise to direct at least 70% of Commonwealth vocational education funding to public TAFEs.
Describing TAFE as “the backbone of our vocational educational system”, Labor pledged to provide 465,000 fee-free TAFE places, including 45,000 new places, in areas of skills shortage. It also announced $100 million for New Energy Apprenticeships and $50 million for a TAFE Technology Fund to improve IT facilities, workshops, laboratories and tele-health simulators.
Prime Minister Albanese says the new body overseeing the vocational education, Jobs and Skills Australia (replacing the National Skills Commission) will adopt a collaborative, inclusive approach, involving unions, employers, different levels of government, and the education sector, in its planning.
Victorian skills minister Gayle Tierney has told media that she hopes it will operate in a similar way to the Victorian Skills Authority, recognising “the central role of TAFE in the skills and training system”. With a seat at the table, the AEU is in a strong position to ensure that TAFE funding meets the full costs of course delivery.
Most importantly, the AEU will continue pushing for better recognition and greater job security for TAFE teachers across the sector. While we welcome moves to recognise the public TAFE system as the backbone of VET, you can’t have a high-quality TAFE system without a highly skilled, qualified and secure workforce.