23 July 2015

Award to be modernised; working conditions retained

Members would be aware that there has been ongoing conflict between the QTU and TAFE Queensland regarding enterprise bargaining negotiations for a new TAFE certified agreement. The QTU, concerned that a modern award would be required before a new agreement could be negotiated, feared that hard-fought working conditions for TAFE teachers would be lost. 

Shortly before the state election, the QTU’s appeal against Deputy President Bloomfield’s ruling that a modern award was required before commencing negotiations was heard. At the time the QTU decided to appeal, the state election had not been scheduled, nor could the outcome have been foreseen. In the appeal we argued that TAFE members had an accrued right to have a certified agreement, even though the award had not been modernised.

On Thursday 23 July 2015, the decision of the Industrial Court of Queensland was handed down. Justice Martin determined that there was no accrued right, and that before a new agreement can be negotiated, the TAFE award must first be modernised. While this is not the outcome the QTU had hoped for when we lodged the appeal, the election of the Palaszczuk government and its recent introduction of the Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) and Other Legislation Amendment Act means that this decision won’t impact on our TAFE members in the way it would have had the old modern award requirements remained.

Members would be familiar with the multitude of changes to industrial relations legislation introduced by the former LNP government, which sought to use the award modernisation process to remove working conditions and ravage awards. The old award modernisation legislation sought to restrict awards to “allowable” and “permitted” matters. These matters were strictly limited and would have seen the removal of conditions for TAFE teachers such as non-attendance time, release to industry time and class sizes. Further, it would not have been possible to seek any additional changes to conditions other than the deletion or amendment of non-allowable matters.  

The QTU was extremely concerned that the award modernisation process under the old legislation would have negatively impacted on our TAFE members. 

As such, the QTU has been involved in a number of appeals against the LNP process. While it is frustrating that TAFE members have not received a pay rise since mid-2013, we have acted to preserve members' working conditions and will now be subject to the new IR legislation. While we are still required to have a modern award, we are no longer subject to the draconian restrictions that existed under the LNP IR legislation. 

The path is now clear for the creation of a modern TAFE award and certified agreement on sensible terms under the Restoring Fairness modern award rules.

The QTU is pleased to note the significant changes to the industrial relations landscape made by the current Labor government, as well as their commitment to restore TAFE. 

The QTU is engaging in discussions with the Minister around a pay increase and a review of TAFE.  We welcome the collaborative approach of the Palaszczuk government towards industrial relations generally and TAFE in particular; a stark contrast to the confrontationist anti-TAFE, anti-teacher/tutor approach of the previous government.

David Terauds
QTU TAFE Organiser