TAFE & Adult Provision Rogue TAFEs disrespect agreement

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Victorian TAFE CEOs have failed in a bid to rip up the current TAFE agreement. Amid intense pressure from the AEU and its members, Victorian TAFEs were forced to withdraw an attempt to change the wording of the TAFE Agreement via a joint application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) that would have allowed TAFEs to increase the number of hours staff could be required to teach and supervise students. 

CEOs from Victoria’s standalone TAFEs lodged a joint application on 10 November to vary the Multi-Enterprise Agreement (MEA) on the grounds of ‘ambiguity’.

If they had succeeded, any assessment undertaken in or out of class would no longer have been counted as an aspect of teaching delivery but instead part of ‘preparation, planning, curriculum development and assessment’. Any assessment duties undertaken in class while supervising students would have been deducted from face-to-face teaching hours, leaving the employer free to add extra classes to teaching loads. 

This would have meant all TAFE members at standalone institutes could have been required to teach more than 800 hours per year (pro-rata for part time). Members at Federation University, Victoria University, Swinburne University, and RMIT would not have been affected.

Elaine Gillespie, AEU vice president for TAFE, said the request demonstrated “a total disregard for the existing workload of TAFE teachers, and a lack of understanding of what actually constitutes teaching”. 

“All TAFE teachers know there is no such thing as in-class assessment where all you do is ‘tick boxes on a competency checklist’ without performing other teaching and supervision duties as well,” she says. 

“This was a blatant grab for higher productivity from TAFE teachers through increased teaching hours. Their actions fly in the face of the definition of teaching outlined in the agreement signed by all TAFE CEOs in 2018.”

 

“We will not allow rogue TAFE employers to defy this agreement.”

As one member from Melbourne Polytechnic told the AEU, “None of us can believe that they would pull this stunt. Three years to get the agreement and now they decide to put the knives in after they’ve signed it off.

“Not sure how this fits with anyone’s idea of work–life balance and people’s mental health … If they are so far removed from any reality of what’s going on at a teacher level, it’s appalling.”

Another member, from Holmesglen TAFE, said this move from employers would be “disastrous for teachers, who in my department are being ‘asked’ to teach excess hours, and told that they can be asked to do up to 150 hours excess per annum”.

TAFEs are not employing enough staff to plug gaps and absences, she said. “They can’t find casual staff because they use them for 13 weeks and then tell them to go… Can you imagine doing your 800 hours, plus excess hours, plus assessment hours not counting as teaching hours? No way!”

Another AEU member from Melbourne Polytechnic said that due to chronic staff shortages, exacerbated by the free TAFE program, teachers are already teaching above agreed hours in his area, “trying to keep programs running with no acknowledgement from management”.

“For the CEOs of the standalone TAFEs to be questioning our workloads is both insulting and a complete lack of understanding of how actual teaching/program delivery works,” he said.

“Assessment is a component of teaching woven into the program. It is an essential element to assess whether a student is competent or not. How can this be separated from teaching duties?”

Elaine hopes the reaction of the AEU and its members puts TAFEs on notice that the union will continue to ensure the industrial agreement is honoured.

“Members have expressed their outrage about their employers’ attempt to change an MEA they voted up and that was signed by TAFEs only a year ago,” she said.

“We will not allow rogue TAFE employers to defy this agreement.”

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