November 20, 2014 | Download as PDF

TAFE EB arbitration and award modernisation

The QTU is continuing to vigorously oppose moves by TAFE Queensland in the Industrial Relations Commission that have delayed overdue salary increases for TAFE teachers and now seek to gut the conditions contained in the award.

QTU appeals against IRC decision not to refer TAFE EB to arbitration

In late October, the application by the QTU to again have TAFE enterprise bargaining negotiations for a new certified agreement referred to arbitration was rejected by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) on the basis that, due to changes to the Industrial Relations Act 1999 in late 2013, the Commission “no longer possesses the capacity to refer the claim to arbitration”. (The negotiations were originally referred to arbitration in July 2013, a decision which the state government appealed. On-going frustration of the process by government and TAFE Queensland means that TAFE teachers have now been without even a minimal pay rise since mid-2013.)

The issues considered in this decision were legal ones and do not relate in any way to the merits of either the TAFE Queensland or QTU enterprise bargaining positions.

The QTU sought legal advice, which indicated that there were reasonable grounds to appeal the decision to the Industrial Court. On this basis, a special meeting of TAFE Council approved lodging an appeal. The appeal is scheduled to be heard in late January.

TAFE award modernisation

TAFE Queensland has applied for a new modern award, the Queensland Vocational Education and Training Award - State 2014, to cover all general and educational staff and replace the TAFE Teachers’ Award and Senior College Teachers’ Award. The QTU had previously submitted a proposed modern TAFE Award (for educational staff only) to the QIRC award modernisation team.

TAFE Queensland has asked for its application to be considered outside of the general award modernisation process. In the award modernisation process, as it has been followed to date, the focus has been on determining whether existing award provisions are “allowable” or “non-allowable” as these terms are defined in the Industrial Relations Act 1999, and parties have not been permitted to seek any additional changes to conditions other than the deletion or amendment of non-allowable matters.

What TAFE Queensland is attempting to do by pursuing the matter separately is introduce a huge number of changes in conditions for TAFE staff. These include:

  • a reduced salary scale, including abolition of LVT and significant salary reductions
  • progression through the salary scale to be dependent on satisfactory annual performance review
  • a 38 hour week, all of which could be attendance and/or teaching time
  • the elimination of NAT.

In fact, almost nothing in the current TAFE Teachers’ Award or Senior College Teachers’ Award survives in the modern award proposed by TAFE Queensland. The QTU will be using every mechanism at its disposal to oppose this wholesale alteration to the conditions of TAFE teachers.

The QIRC has now set a full bench hearing on 8-9 December to determine two “threshold issues” in relation to TAFE award modernisation:

  1. Should there be one award for teachers and general staff combined, as proposed by TAFE Queensland or separate awards for educational and general staff, as proposed by the QTU and supported by Together
  2. Should the matter progress through the award modernisation process (the QTU/Together position), or be considered separately (the TAFE Queensland position).

The QTU will keep members informed.

Political and industrial strategies

Recent developments in the QIRC have emphasised the need for a broad-based political and industrial strategy to confront the ongoing assault by the state government on public vocational education and training, in which, unfortunately, TAFE Queensland management has now shown itself to be deeply complicit.

At its meeting of 22 November, QTU TAFE Council will consider a variety of political and industrial options to put to the TAFE membership for action, especially in the lead up to the forthcoming state election.

Submission to the Senate Select Committee

As part of a QCU coordinated effort, the QTU has lodged a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs. The QTU submission covers several matters relating to education, including the possible conflict of interest of members appointed by the LNP government to the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce given their links with private providers in competition with TAFE. We also condemn skyrocketing TAFE costs to students and the financial burden incurred as a result of the establishment of the Queensland Training Assets Management Authority.

The QTU has requested an invitation to appear at the upcoming Committee hearings.

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