TAFE members working in standalone institutes across the state have taken a united stand for a better deal.
Following the tireless efforts of AEU organisers and reps in TAFEs, members have achieved a Majority Support Petition for a Single Interest Employer Agreement for all teachers, senior educators and education managers working in Victoria’s standalone TAFEs.
To apply for a Single Interest Employer Agreement, each of the 12 standalone TAFEs needed more than 50% of teaching staff and education managers to sign the petition. This was no mean feat, involving reaching employees across the sector – many working off-campus and not in regular contact with their colleagues – to alert them to the benefits of a single interest agreement.
In an ultimate show of solidarity, the Majority Support Petition was signed by more than 50% of relevant employees at Gippsland, Melbourne Polytechnic, Chisholm, Gordon, Go TAFE, Wodonga, and Holmesglen, and more than 60% at Kangan Batman, Box Hill, South West, Sunni, and William Angliss TAFE institutes.
A better deal for TAFE members
Negotiations for a new industrial agreement covering TAFE teacher wages and conditions have been underway since June last year. But, after almost 12 months, TAFE employers have failed to address the key issues.
The 2021 ‘State of our TAFEs’ survey found more than 77% of TAFE teachers had experienced an increased workload, with almost half describing this as significant. Since then, COVID-related pressures and workforce shortages have only worsened the challenges.
It is time for TAFE members’ voices to be heard by employers and the government.
Members have made it clear that there are several key issues that must be addressed in the next agreement:
- Excessive workloads – a reduction of teaching hours, increased preparation time, addressing shaved hours, and in-class assessment to be acknowledged as teaching.
- Secure employment – more ongoing full and part-time positions, and improved arrangements for casuals.
- Qualifications – recognition for your skills, knowledge and experience, and proper acknowledgment of education and vocational qualifications.
- Pay rises – professional respect via improved salaries.
Why a single interest agreement?
Currently, TAFE members are on an outdated workplace agreement that limits their ability to take protected industrial action. This has hindered the capacity of AEU members to take collective action for a better workplace deal.
Prior to commencing negotiations last year, the AEU sought agreement to bargain for a Single Interest Agreement, but the employers refused. Then, late last year, the federal government passed the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act 2022, with the aim of promoting job security, gender equality and collective bargaining. This Act established three new streams of multi-enterprise agreements (i.e. agreements that cover more than one employer), including Single Interest Employer Agreements.
These can be driven by unions and require an application for a single interest employer authorisation to join several employers with a common enterprise to bargain, provided existing agreements have passed their nominal expiry date. In other words, if enough employees want one, their employers are compelled to negotiate this type of agreement.
On 25 August, the AEU TAP (TAFE and Adult Provision) Council authorised AEU leadership to lodge the Majority Support Petition to the Fair Work Commission to seek a Single Interest Employer Agreement. Once approved, TAFE members and their colleagues will be free to take protected industrial action about the many issues affecting their working lives.
It is time for TAFE members’ voices to be heard by employers and the government. When union members act collectively, we can achieve an agreement that gives members the respect they need and deserve.