28 Jan 2015

TAFE stop-work, Thursday 29 January proceeding

The TAFE two hour stop-work and rallies on Thursday 29 January 2015 will proceed. A number of rallies have been scheduled in centres across the state. It is important that while taking this stop-work action, TAFE members and supporters are visible. The rallies are intended to ensure that the action by TAFE members and the reasons for it are widely known. Rally venues are as set out below

Location Venue Time
Brisbane Executive Building 9.00am
Cairns Outside Cairns MP Gavin King's office, 46 – 50 Spence Street, Cairns 9.00am
Gold Coast Roma Park (cnr Via Roma & Verona Ave), Isle of Capri, Surfers Paradise 9.00am
Logan Riverside Park, Loganlea Road, Waterford West 9.00am
Sunshine Coast Jessica Park, Kawana 9.00am
Toowoomba Queens Park (cnr Margaret and Hume Street), Toowoomba 9.00am
Ipswich Footpath, 125 Brisbane Road, Booval 9.00am
Townsville Cnr Hugh Street and Fullham Road, Townsville 9.00am

Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC)

 Last Friday, TAFE Queensland lodged a notice of industrial dispute in the QIRC seeking to prevent the stop-work proceeding. On Friday and again yesterday, the Commission issued an order that the stop-work not proceed, that the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) withdraw its directive and that letters to students not be distributed.

Senior Officers of the QTU decided late yesterday that the stop-work should proceed and that the Union would not comply with the order. The reasons are three-fold:

  1. the attacks on TAFE and TAFE employees are continuing and escalating
  2. it is important to draw attention to the impact of government policies on TAFE and the consequences for TAFE and students into the future NOW.
  3. it would seem there are no circumstances other than safety or protected action during enterprise bargaining where the QIRC would do anything other than issue orders that industrial action not proceed, denying employees the right to strike.

 Non-compliance with the QIRC order has consequences for the Union in subsequent proceedings where the Union may have to show cause why penalties should not be imposed upon it. Senior Officers decided that the issues at stake, including the very future of TAFE, are of such importance that the risk of penalties must be accepted in this case.

Based on the terms of the order and past experience, individual members would not be liable for penalties.

The Union is aware that TAFE Queensland has communicated with members indicating that they may be liable for disciplinary action for participating in this action. As you are aware, TAFE employees are no longer covered by the Public Service Act and the QTU is aware of no replacement disciplinary policy for TAFE employees. The only potential options for disciplinary action, therefore, are a warning or dismissal, the latter being entirely disproportionate and therefore highly unlikely. TAFE Queensland could hardly then promote itself as an “employer of choice.”

Any disciplinary action for participation in industrial action would be unprecedented and a serious escalation by TAFE Queensland of the dispute. Any attempt to impose disciplinary action will be vigorously opposed by the QTU.

Why are we stopping work? 

TAFE Council called for the ballots for industrial action at its meeting on 22 November last year to focus attention on the impact of LNP policies in TAFE, including  redundancies, loss of programs, costs to students, closure of facilities, and stealing TAFE campuses and associated equipment through the QTAMA process.

Members have supported the stop work action because:

  •  the state government funding policy has increased costs to students, making many courses unaffordable
  • the withdrawal of funding from many vocational areas disadvantages students who wish to undertake those careers
  • funding has been withdrawn from literacy and numeracy courses for people with disabilities
  • the government has abdicated responsibility for quality control of RTOs accessing state training funding
  • the removal of assets from TAFE Queensland control has forced TAFE to withdraw services from communities and subsequently pay exorbitant rental to retain access
  • hundreds of teachers, educational support workers and other staff have lost their jobs across TAFE Queensland.

More people have gained an education in TAFE than in universities; through TAFE, everyone can have a solid start in life, including the disadvantaged. It is where, for many, “great” has happened in their lives.

A quality assured educator, TAFE has taught the generations of highly skilled workers who have built our state and grown our economy. For 130 years TAFE has put students before profit.

Yet as unemployment in Queensland grows and skill shortages loom, Campbell Newman’s government is slashing TAFE funding. TAFE is being forced to withdraw from campuses because it is being charged excessive rental for training equipment. Even the desks and chairs have been “confiscated” by QTAMA. Hundreds of TAFE teachers and other staff have lost their jobs, and courses are becoming harder to attend, whether as a result of campus relocations or because the courses have been dropped altogether or priced out of the market.

At the same time, the poor treatment of TAFE teachers industrially continues, with claims for a new award to reduce conditions, on-going frustration of enterprise bargaining and no pay increase for nearly 18 months.

Stand-up with the QTU and call on the government to reverse its damaging policies on TAFE and VET and restore appropriate funding to TAFE to ensure equity and access to quality vocational education for the people of Queensland.

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