No.4, 31 May 2013
The single bargaining unit met on 30 May. The QTU gave a presentation outlining the philosophical rationale behind the QTU’s interest based log of claims. The presentation was well received and analysed a range of issues, including chronic underfunding of TAFE Queensland, increased educational employee productivity in recent years and the need to maintain professional teaching at the heart of TAFE. The parties discussed the implementation of a competitive market and the ramifications for remuneration and conditions of educational employees. There was general agreement that high quality educational skills were essential to the future of TAFE. Negotiations will continue on Friday 7 June.
National TAFE Day
“Stop TAFE cuts” is the theme for National TAFE Day on Monday, 3 June, setting the scene for TAFE workers and students around Australia to both celebrate the educational chance brought by TAFE, as well as commiserate the ongoing budget cuts to the public provider by state governments.
In Queensland, the day comes less than a fortnight after submissions closed for the Queensland Government’s draft VET investment plan 2013-14.
Funding in Queensland per capita for post-secondary education has been among the nation’s lowest for years; an increasing proportion of that shrinking pie is being handed to private providers at the expense of TAFEs.
Building on the "contestability" rhetoric of the Skills and Training Taskforce recommendations, the plan continues to push a competitive market approach to VET, grossly undervaluing TAFE’s value as a public educator, not simply a deliverer of pared down training packages. For example, it does not appear that there is funding proposed for the services that only the public TAFE system reliably provides, such as library services, student welfare and disability support and job placement.
The Queensland Government is moving further down the path that has proven to be a disaster in Victoria, where TAFE’s share of the VET market has fallen by 30 per cent in less than two years, more than 2,400 TAFE workers have lost their jobs, and students are suffering from variable and questionable course quality, sometimes at astronomical cost.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Queensland Government’s plan to "rationalise" TAFE campuses, with 38 of the state’s 82 at risk, and the rushed introduction of the TAFE Queensland Bill 2013, which moves control of TAFE Queensland to an "independent" board’s control from 1 July, it’s little wonder that QTU TAFE members are highly suspicious of the government’s commitment to an adequately funded public provider, its commitment to quality and accountability when it comes to VET provision in this state, and its commitment to having a stable, supported, fairly paid and well treated group of educators working in TAFE campuses.
The QTU calls for investment in Queensland’s future by government investing in TAFE.
Industrial relations legislation
The changes being proposed in the new Industrial Relations (Transparency and Accountability of Industrial Organisations) and other Acts Amendment Bill 2013 will, from the perspective of the QTU, have a series of deleterious effects, including:
- placing serious restrictions on the capacity of unions to campaign
- requiring industrial organisations to maintain and publish a number of detailed and intrusive registers
- invalidating union encouragement and policy incorporation provisions in existing awards and certified agreements
- the alteration of right of entry of officers to inspect time and wages records.
TAFE teacher accommodation
In 2012, the LNP state government announced, without consultation with the QTU, that TAFE housing currently owned by the Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) would be transferred to the Department of Housing and Public Works (DH&PW) from 1 July 2013. Despite attending meetings with the Minister and other senior officials of the department, the QTU is unable to inform members how TAFE housing arrangements may change from 1 July 2013 as the government is still not clear on the potential impacts of the changes. At a recent DETE regional housing forum, a list of 32 questions generated by departmental officers could not be answered by the state government.
Key questions included the following:
- Will the current rental model be retained?
- Will TAFE employees have to pay market rent for accommodation?
- How responsive will DH&PW be to maintenance requests?
- If DETE or the new TAFE entity has to pay market rent to lease back accommodation it currently owns, where will the additional funds be found?
This uncertainty is impacted by the Costello Commission of Audit recommending that tenancy and maintenance for employee accommodation should be outsourced. There is now speculation that the date for the change of ownership may change to 1 January 2014 or 1 July 2014.
This issue has been mismanaged by the state government, and the lack of certainty is causing concern among QTU members occupying TAFE housing.
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