The AEU remains focused on the problem of increasing casualisation within the TAFE sector. One flashpoint is the misuse of the ‘industry experts’ classification in the TAFE Agreement to hire staff on rolling short-term, 13-week contracts who would otherwise be eligible for ongoing employment.
“This clause is designed to cover someone who gets called in for a one-off session where you might need some specialist input. But it’s widely abused across the sector,” explains Phil Smith, AEU deputy vice president for TAFE.
Phil says many TAFEs across Victoria have been employing casual staff continually on this basis in a “bad faith reading” of the award, which was intended to move casual employees working beyond the 13-week limit onto an appropriate permanent contract.
“Some TAFEs have been getting around that by saying, ‘They’re an industry expert, so we’re going to keep them casual’. But, really, they’re doing the job of a teacher,” Phil says.
A lot of secondary school teachers moving into TAFE are also encountering misclassification issues.
TAFE institutes failing to recognise the AQF6+ qualification is another issue the AEU is currently tackling. “There’s a barrier in the award to go up into the top couple of pay scales,” says Phil. “Ongoing confusion over qualifications means some teachers are not being properly renumerated for their skill level or missing out on opportunities to move into more senior roles.”
He says a lot of secondary school teachers moving into TAFE are also encountering misclassification issues.
“There has been an issue with some TAFEs not recognising all qualifications. There’s wording in our award that specifically mentions ‘adult education’ as a necessary part of some qualifications, for instance. So, we’re seeing some teachers coming across from schools to teaching in TAFE, who are highly qualified, being told, ‘Well, you’ve got all these qualifications, but you haven’t got a particular unit relating to adult education’.”