For everyone TAFE teachers join forces for a better deal

With Victoria’s TAFE teachers enduring ever-increasing workloads, stagnating wages and inadequate funding, AEU members are gearing up for a year of collective action across the sector.
Teachers across all areas of TAFE are being expected to do more with less. Class sizes have ballooned, teaching hours for students have been repeatedly cut back, and teachers are being given considerably less preparation time.

Across the TAFE sector, many departments are only able to continue offering the same courses because existing teachers are working well above their contracted hours. This is not sustainable – and something the AEU will be highlighting in our push for a better workplace agreement.

Elaine Gillespie, AEU vice president for TAFE and Adult Provision, says experienced teachers are walking away from roles they have been doing at a high level for many years.
“TAFE loses so much more than just one teacher every time someone walks out the door – those many years of experience can be very difficult to replace, and it can mean the difference between a student passing and a student thriving.

“It can mean the difference between a workforce that is fully prepared and resilient, and a workforce that lacks the necessary skills for the job.

“Both state and federal governments need to tackle shortages in TAFE as a matter of urgency, not just for the current teachers and students but also for the future health of the nation’s workforce,” says Elaine.

Broader workforce shortages, often in high-paying industries, means staff retention in TAFE is closely linked with wages and conditions.
It appears that the skills shortage is taking a particular toll on women teachers, with female-dominated areas seeing the most dramatic growth in class sizes.

“TAFE loses so much more than just one teacher every time someone walks out the door – those many years of experience can be very difficult to replace.”

Elaine Gillespie

A recent AEU ‘Women in TAFE’ caucus heard that some male teachers are currently being paid at the highest rate regardless of classification, while their female counterparts were being offered small classification increases only on the proviso that they undertake further training. The AEU is investigating the ways in which gender-based discrimination is playing out in instances such as this.

What is clear is that TAFE teacher workloads have grown exponentially across the board while their wages stagnate, with no more pay increases available until a new agreement has been struck. AEU members served a log of claims towards a new agreement in April 2022, but since then negotiations with TAFE management have slowed and the state government appears not to be paying attention.

Currently, top of the scale TAFE teachers earn $6,596 less per year than their counterparts in schools. From 1 July 2024, this gap is set to grow to $7,742, or more than 7%.

In November, the Fair Work Commission granted authorisation for a Single Interest Employer Agreement for members working in Victoria’s 12 standalone TAFEs. This allows members across those institutes to apply for a protected action ballot and – if supported by a majority of members – take united protected industrial action if government continues to ignore members’ demands. This puts the AEU in a far stronger position to achieve the kind of workplace deal TAFE teachers need and deserve.

In a major show of solidarity, a majority of TAFE teachers in every standalone TAFE institute – Gippsland, Melbourne Polytechnic, Chisholm, Gordon, Go TAFE, Wodonga, Holmesglen, Kangan Batman, Box Hill, South West, Sunni, and William Angliss – signed a petition in favour of the single interest agreement.

It’s an indication of the united campaigning to come among members across the sector in 2024 as we ramp up our fight for a better deal for our highly skilled and all-important TAFE workforce.

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