11 May 2016 | Download as PDF

TAFE Award Modernisation

After many months of negotiations, an agreed position (known as a “consent position”) between TAFE Queensland and the relevant unions, including the QTU, has been reached regarding the modern TAFE Award. The consent position has been conveyed to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC), and it is expected that the modern award will be made when the matter is next heard by the Full Bench of the QIRC on 19 May. 

The making of the modern award means that the obstacle to Enterprise Bargaining will be removed and negotiations for a replacement Certified Agreement can begin. The QTU will soon commence a consultation process in order to ascertain members’ views regarding priorities and inclusions in the Log of Claims. 

In order to reach the consent position, concessions had to be made both by TAFE Queensland and the unions. The big gain for unions was TAFE’s agreement to include entitlements in the modern award that had previously been contained in Public Service Directives. These conveyed significant entitlements, such as special leave, paid parental leave and leave and travel concessions in isolated centres. When TAFE became a statutory authority, Public Service Directives no longer applied to TAFE employees. While the directive entitlements have been included in TAFE policy, the QTU (along with our colleagues from other unions) were concerned at how easily policy can change, and the possibility of those entitlements being eroded in the future. Including these entitlements in the modern award addresses this concern and better protects the entitlements of TAFE employees.

Also at issue was the temporary to permanent conversion provision. During the QIRC conferences, TAFE indicated an unwillingness to replicate the provision that exists in the pre-modern TAFE Teachers Award. TAFE have now agreed to include the provision, in terms consistent with the terms of the Temporary Employment directive. The big win for TAFE employees on this point is that this provision now extends to ALL TAFE employees, including tutors, and non-Educators, not just teachers and LVTs.

While TAFE has been pushing for a single award which covers all employees, the QTU has long held the view that we would prefer a separate award for tutors, teachers and LVTs. We took that issue to the Full Bench in 2014 and unfortunately were not successful. In light of that decision, and the inclusions TAFE agreed to set out above, the QTU agreed not to go to arbitration on the matter of the single award. In light of the previous decision our prospects of success on the question of a separate award were low, and arbitration would lead to further delays both in making the modern award and the new Certified Agreement. Given that the current Certified Agreement has already expired, and Certified Agreements deliver pay increases, on balance the QTU decided that it was better to accept the single award, with the extra inclusions.

This is a decision that some members won’t agree with. Please be assured members’ views were heavily factored into the decision making process. The fact that there is a single award doesn’t mean we are bound to have a single certified agreement, which we understand was the source of concern about the single award for some members. For others the concern was the workability of the document. We are confident that the draft award, while lengthy and cumbersome, is going to be workable. Headings have been used which do clearly identify which entitlements apply to which type of TAFE employees. Tutors, teachers and LVTs are grouped under the heading “TAFE Educators”, and where provisions apply only to a subset of “Educators”, eg. Tutors, it is clearly marked.

The single award was not our preferred position, but given the gains offered by the consent position, and the steps taken to make the award as user-friendly as possible, we felt we had to take certainty of significant entitlements over the mere possibility of a separate award. 

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union