TAFE member activism is the key to a successful EB10 outcome
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 7, 27 September 2019, page no. 10
QTU TAFE members have voted to accept a revised EB10 offer from TAFE Queensland.
The QTU TAFE Executive met on 3 September to consider the revised enterprise bargaining offer from TAFE Queensland, and after careful consideration of the detail, determined that the four priority issues of pay, programming, permanency and measures to address gender employment inequity had been satisfactorily addressed and that QTU TAFE Division members working in TAFE Queensland would be balloted on acceptance. During the second half of September, TAFE members voted to accept the offer. It will now go to an employer ballot.
How we got here
QTU TAFE members’ willingness to engage in union activism prior to the commencement of formal negotiations and throughout the six months of the negotiations was the key to our Union’s capacity to deliver on the aims of the EB10 campaign.
Rank and file members' engagement in EB10 consultation at branch meetings, as well as elected members working with QTU officers at QTU TAFE Council, commenced in 2018. This preliminary work was crucial in determining the aims of the EB10 campaign, which were later framed by our "Three Ps" of pay, permanency, and programming. The Three Ps, as well as gender employment and progress on matters related to ETL and higher education, informed the threshold matters that became triggers for our protected industrial action.
QTU members also presented at the single bargaining unit, reporting on the real impact programming decisions have on work intensification. Specifically, the workload matters at TAFE Queensland Online were addressed, resulting in TAFE Queensland committing to review the TQOL business model during the life of a replacement agreement. The single bargaining unit also heard cases of the impact of programming decisions on staff wellbeing, including cases of teams that include no permanent employee, despite four teachers in the team sharing more than thirty years of experience between them.
The courage of members to present their stories has led directly to some of the improvements in working conditions in the replacement agreement.
In May, QTU TAFE Council carried resolutions calling for an industrial campaign in response to the slow rate of progress in negotiations.
In June, QTU members engaged in a series of TAFE tele-townhalls that were hosted by the QTU’s Presidential team of Kevin Bates and Cresta Richardson, followed by an online protected industrial action ballot (PAB) of members.
Eligible members overwhelmingly supported action, and three separate protected industrial actions were planned. The first was postponed as a show of good faith, after TAFE Queensland provided an initial response to the QTU log of claims. This initial response was later rejected.
The second action was a two-hour stop-work meeting. Again, TAFE Queensland provided an offer in the days leading up to the stop work, but QTU TAFE Executive resolved to reject it because it failed to deliver increases in salaries, improve access to permanent employment, and deliver gender employment equity. QTU TAFE Executive also resolved to proceed with the planned action. Members throughout Queensland connected online and engaged in a stop-work meeting that was hosted by QTU Vice-President, Cresta Richardson. Following the meeting, financial members of the TAFE Division voted online to endorse the decisions of QTU TAFE Executive. The online ballot was in seven parts and all were supported by more than 94 per cent of eligible votes.
The third directive to engage in protected industrial action was in accordance with the terms of the original PAB, which included provisions for a 24-hour stoppage. Again, on the day immediately prior to the stop-work, TAFE Queensland provided a revised formal offer. The new offer was a significant improvement on TAFE Queensland’s previous position and included a revised salary schedule that would mean salary gains across all classifications and new salary horizons that were comparable with interstate colleagues.
The revised salary offer proposed a four-year agreement to assist TAFE Queensland absorb the additional costs. QTU negotiators advised the employer that a four-year deal would not be acceptable unless a one off sign-on bonus of $1,250 was on offer in the first year of a replacement agreement.
The original plan for a 24-hour stoppage included a rally outside the Queensland Parliament, and members from across south-east Queensland had registered to attend that event. However, given the revised salary offer, the rally became a meeting of members that was streamed throughout the state, again hosted by the QTU’s Presidential team.
The strong show of QTU member activism and solidarity and the willingness to engage in the 24-hour stoppage was a significant factor in TAFE Queensland offering the one off bonus of $1,250.
The QTU TAFE Division will continue to campaign throughout 2020.
QTU TAFE Division members employed by Central Queensland University are covered by the Central Queensland University Enterprise Agreement, which has a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2021. Negotiations for a replacement agreement are due to commence by March 2021, and the QTU will commence consultation with CQU branches in 2020.
The QTU remains alarmed by the chronic underfunding of TAFE by state and federal governments. At a local level, we will be campaigning, through our annual State Budget Submission and in the lead up to a Queensland election, for increased funding commitments to TAFE. At a federal level, we will continue to campaign with the Australian Education Union for guaranteed skills and training funding for TAFE from the Commonwealth.