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THE PROFESSIONAL AND INDUSTRIAL VOICE OF QUEENSLAND’S TEACHERS AND SCHOOL LEADERS IN STATE SCHOOLS AND TAFE FOR MORE THAN 130 YEARS.

COVID-19 - TAFE

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing considerable anxiety among QTU members.

The QTU has been meeting with TAFE Qld and government officials to be briefed on developments and to work on solutions to emerging issues. These emerging issues include a range of concerns raised by members in circumstances such as alternative modes of delivery in TAFE Qld, the immediate needs of the community for skilled tradespeople and directly supporting members with specific professional, personal and family situations. 

The QTU TAFE Organiser and QTU President continue to be involved in regular discussions with TAFE Qld corporate office and have established a schedule of video meetings with the TAFE Qld CEO.

We will continue to advise members of the outcomes of these discussions as the situation progresses.

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Wearing of MASKS : message from Director WHS, Mark Patterson (31 Aug )

 

Mark Patterson, the  TAFE Queeensland Director, Workplace Health and Safety  has issued the following message :

"Local Emergency Response Teams are receiving an increase in queries regarding the use of face masks at TAFE Queensland, particularly for staff in frontline roles, following media statements made by the Chief Health Officer over the weekend.

The Queensland Chief Health Officer has not mandated the wearing of face masks in Queensland generally, or in any specific Queensland workplaces. As a precaution however, Queensland Health workers in hospitals, health services, primary care in Greater Brisbane are asked to use face masks until further notice.

It remains a personal choice if you wish to wear a face mask at work.

In light of the recent cluster however, current Queensland Health advice for people living and working in the greater region of Brisbane, is that wearing a face mask might be suitable if:

  • you are in a situation where physical distancing cannot be maintained, i.e. on public transport or a busy shopping centre
  • if your GP has told you to wear one
  • if you are caring for someone who has COVID-19
  • if you are attending a GP clinic, hospital or emergency department
  • if you are sick and getting a COVID-19 test
  • if it is a requirement of entry for a specific business or undertaking.

At TAFE Queensland we have undertaken risk assessments to put controls in place to manage the risk of infection through our COVID response planning and our roadmap following the period of shut down earlier this year. Masks may be appropriate where a risk assessment identifies an escalation of risk of infection due to a person being in close contact with another person or multiple persons within a day for extended periods of time i.e. face to face more than 15 minutes. Examples of this may be personal services such as nail technician, beauty therapy (eye brows, facials) and other beauty treatment courses. Please remember that as an educational service we are required to physical distance in the delivery of education and training where practicable. We have in place a number of controls through risk assessments and following the advice and directives from Queensland Health.

Most importantly, it is vital that COVID-safe practices are followed at all times:

  • washing hands often and thoroughly
  • maintaining physical distancing
  • covering coughs or sneezes
  • staying at home if unwell
  • getting tested if you're showing any signs of COVID-19.

In short if you want to wear a mask and it makes you feel safe, wear one. If a risk assessment identifies that one of the controls to reduce the likelihood of infections is to wear a mask, wear one. At this point in time TAFE Queensland is not mandating the need to wear a mask. Should this advice change, you will be notified.

Given this advice if you have any personal concerns about the wearing of masks or any other issues regarding our COVID-19 plans please raise them directly with your manager, your Emergency Response Team leaders or your WHS Committee members.

Stay safe, follow COVID-safe practices and look out for each other.

 

Information from TAFE Q CEO (updated 24 Aug 2020)

Information/advice from the QTU (updated 14 May)

14 May: VETiS advice

“There is no business as usual. Everything is COVID-19” (26 March)

TAFE Newsflash 26 March 2020

The QTU wishes it could claim credit for this quote. It sums up the current situation perfectly. Schools and the public providers of VET (TAFE Qld and CQU) will not be operating on a normal basis for the foreseeable future.

The issue is how to maximise the educational opportunities of Queensland students in the middle of a pandemic. It is, accurately, an unprecedented situation with time and patience in as short supply as hand sanitiser.

Though some in authority have come very belatedly to the realisation, the provision of education is a fundamental provision of a civilised society. If anything, educational professionals want to avoid students “losing a year of education” more than the general population.

There is a balance to be struck between:

  • the health and safety concerns of teachers (including the working from home provisions for vulnerable teachers)
  • the continued provision of education to students
  • the impossibility of changing the mode of education delivery while still teaching as usual
  • supporting the provision of other essential services during the pandemic.
     

As communicated on 23 March, the QTU is aware of the concerns of members and is working for solutions.

The Queensland Government has a firm position on the continuation of educational delivery, particularly for students who are workers in essential industries. That is not the same as the ill-considered “anyone with a job” definition of an essential worker given by the Prime Minister.

The QTU is pursuing discussions with both state and federal governments regarding the ongoing provision of vocational education in the current environment.

TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity

The QTU has consulted with both TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity as the public providers of vocational education continuing to operate and provide an essential service to the Queensland community as required.

Both TAFE Qld and CQU have assured the QTU that the health and safety of staff and students is paramount. Both organisations are transitioning to online or other flexible delivery modes where possible and putting in place working from home or other provisions for vulnerable staff.  It’s important to recognise that the very nature of vocational education and training embeds practical training for our students, particularly apprentices and trainees, and our educators are committed to providing this training where safe to do so.

If you have concerns regarding the conduct of face-to-face classes and effective personal distancing in class situations, put the concerns in writing to management and human resources so they can identify solutions. It is important that staff inform their own manager locally of any issues so they can be dealt with locally and immediately. Improvements can be delayed unnecessarily if the reporting of issues or concerns excludes the local manager.  Equally, if there is no joy on the issue with the local manager, then senior managers can provide additional assistance. If the local management is ignored or bypassed, it is can actually contribute to making the work situation less safe. It is reasonable to include the Union as a CC to any such communication.

Staffing - vulnerable workers

Queensland Health has determined that those most at risk of serious infection if they contract COVID-19 are staff:

  • with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
  • with chronic medical conditions
  • over the age of 60, particularly when combined with a chronic medical condition
  • who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly over the age of 50.
     

For additional information, please refer to the Queensland Health website.

Working from home

If it is not possible for you to be at work because you are a vulnerable worker or you have other responsibilities such as being a primary caregiver for a vulnerable person, you must get medical advice and commence discussions with your supervisor.

If you are unable to perform your duties from home, or can only perform a portion of your duties, discuss with your supervisor taking some form of leave or working a fractional arrangement and taking the rest of the time as leave. TAFE Queensland and Central Queensland University each have approaches to this and local enquiries should be made.

Cleaning

TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity have both reported increases in cleaning regimes in terms of cleaning levels and/or frequency, whether by providing extra staffing or through contractual arrangements with external providers.

Please be aware that the cleaning staff know the critical role that they play in reducing risk of contracting COVID-19. Please treat them with respect.

If you have concerns regarding cleaning levels or frequency, in the first instance raise them with management and human resources.

Procedures already in place

  • Vulnerable workers should identify themselves and discuss with management alternative working arrangements.
  • Students with flu-like symptoms should be sent home with the backing of the Chief Medical Officer’s directive.
  • Staff with flu-like symptoms should stay home on sick leave.
  • Arrangements are being made for access for teachers working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities going into lockdown.
  • Vulnerable students should remain at home.
     

Interstate TAFEs

Each state is in a different stage of response to COVID–19, and therefore each state has a different response in VET provision at this stage. It is also clear that each state’s TAFE system has differing levels of preparedness to move to alternative modes of teaching and working.

  • TAFE NSW is pausing all training and educational delivery starting Monday 30 March. From 27 April, TAFE NSW will re-commence delivery to students through connected and blended delivery. This may involve face-to-face where necessary.
  • In Victoria, each of the 16 individual TAFE institutions and dual sector entities are making local decisions regarding operations and alternative modes of teaching and working.
  • In South Australia, it appears that TAFE remains open.
  • As of 24 March, Western Australia’s TAFEs are open and in the process of transitioning to online modes of delivery.
  • TasTAFE is currently open and is transitioning to online learning as much as possible. Practical learning and assessment continues in very small groups. Most teachers are starting to deliver courses in the online environment.
  • In the ACT, classes were initially paused for one week to allow transition to alternate modes of delivery. Following the confirmation of a staff member testing positive to COVID-19, classes are now suspended until the scheduled Easter break (Friday 10 April).

The situation is fluid and it is possible that tomorrow the situation will be different. National Cabinet meetings are being held frequently and upgrading measures regularly.

Is your QTU membership paid?

To maintain your financial status, the closing date for lump sum payment (and discount) is 31 March.

Any member who is having financial difficulties paying should contact the Union so that financial arrangements can be made, and you can maintain full rights and benefits of QTU membership.

What conditions apply to members in TAFE?(17 March)

Excerpt from QTU FAQs document 17 March 2020

In the event of closures of TAFE campuses/institutes, members will have access to the entitlements of the pandemic directive.

Should TAFE institutes close, members may be required to provide work to students through online learning. In these cases, members will not be on leave but be deemed to be working from home.

The leave provisions that usually apply to TAFE members required to self-isolate, who are feeling unwell or who need to take leave to care for family members remain in place.

In response to the decisions of the National Cabinet, TAFE has determined to:

  • ·         postpone or cancel all TAFE Queensland work-related events and gatherings (with the exception of delivery of training) until the end of April 2020
  • ·         change the format of regular face-to-face network meetings, conferences or workshops to technology enabled solutions
  • ·         cease non-essential interstate air travel.

The QTU has placed any advice relating to TAFE and COVID-19 on the website.

Continuation of classes in TAFE (23 March 2020)

 The QTU has received a number of concerns from QTU  TAFE Division members regarding the current policy on continuation of classes within TAFE. The concerns shared, in summary, are as follows.

  • Given classroom sizes, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to practice social distancing as recommended by the government.
  • Most TAFE Queensland students are not young people as in schools, with many in higher risk age groups, and therefore the generalities that apply to young people in school do not apply in TAFE or CQU.
  •  Some students will not be able to move to the online environment due to the level of study, the practical nature of the qualification and/or the proficiency of students with language or technology.
  • The TAFE and CQU educator workforce is generally older than the population average, and many have high risk medical conditions.
  • There is a shortage of hygiene materials such as hand sanitiser, gloves and wipes in some locations, which is contributing to educators’ sense of vulnerability in the current situation.
  • Given that VET is practical education, it is extremely difficult to continue practical classes, exercises and assessments while maintaining the high levels of hygiene being advised. 
  • Some educators have caring responsibilities, like many people in the population, and they feel these are being compromised by continuing to attend work in the current conditions.
     

The QTU is bringing the concerns of members to the attention of TAFE Queensland corporate and is liaising with regions.

Employment arrangements in pandemic (20 Mar 2020)

The QTU continues to work with the Department of Education, TAFE Queensland and other education stakeholder groups to advocate for the safety of our members, the students we teach, and our communities.

QTU and the Australian Education Union.

The QTU and our national affiliates through the Australian Education Union have written to the Prime Minister and members of the National Cabinet to express our grave concerns about the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and the implementation of the decisions taken by the National Cabinet with respect to preschools, schools and TAFE. A copy of the letter, signed on behalf of QTU members by our President, Kevin Bates, is available on the QTU website.

QTU and TAFE Queensland Consultative Committee.

The QTU and other unions that a party to the TAFE Queensland Award, 2016 formally meet with TAFE Queensland each quarter at the TAFE Queensland Consultative Committee (TQCC) to discuss work related matters. The most recent TQCC meeting was advised that TAFE Queensland Executive are now meeting on a daily basis to address COVID-19 related matters and that subsequent communication to employees and students will occur through CEO broadcasts, website and SPOT updates, and other collateral (e.g. fact sheets, flyers and posters).

TQCC was provided with the following information regarding announcements from TAFE Queensland’s CEO:

  • All TAFE Queensland work-related events and gatherings have been postponed or cancelled—this applies to anything outside of delivery of training.
  • All non-essential functions and events are to be cancelled.
  • All internal face to face network meetings that can’t be changed to Skype or observe social distancing are to be cancelled.
  • All work related international and non-essential domestic travel is to be cancelled.
  • Non-essential TAFE Services staff visits to alternate campuses are to be postponed with staff limiting movement between campuses.
  • Travelling for training purposes is to be reviewed through a risk assessment.
  • Attendance at all external work related meetings, conferences and/or workshops are recommended to be declined, or attended through non face to face options.
  • Suspend live personal services to the general public on TAFE Queensland campuses in live training environments of Hair and Beauty, Massage, Gymnasiums from Friday 20 March to Tuesday 14 April 2020.
  • Cease conferences, events or workshops arranged for third parties (e.g. Rotary) on or off TAFE Queensland premises including front of house hospitality supported by back of house students for assessment purposes. 

New TAFE Queensland policy ‘Employment arrangements in the event of a health pandemic’

Queensland unions, including the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU), have negotiated a new directive with the Office of Industrial Relations, Directive 01/20 Employment Arrangements in the Event of a Health Pandemic. Clause 17 of the directive establishes that it does not cover employees of statutory authorities like TAFE Queensland, however the QTU and other relevant union/s have consulted with TAFE Queensland and developed a new policy, Employment Arrangements in the Event of Health Pandemic. The new TAFE Queensland policy mirrors many of the new arrangements in the Office of Industrial Relations directive.

Attached is a comparative table between the TAFE Queensland policy and OIR Directive specific to Employment Arrangements in the Event of Health Pandemic. The table is a guide to compare key worker entitlements. TAFE Queensland Health Pandemic scenarios are also available, and these provide similar information to health pandemic scenarios in Schedule A of Directive 01/20.

Planning to deal with COVID-19 on campus

TAFE Queensland have advised that, in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus, it is TAFE Queensland’s intention to take every precaution to keep our students, staff and communities safe.  To that end, TAFE Queensland have protocols in place to fast track decision making should the need to close campuses arise.  TAFE Queensland are undertaking preparations with staff to prepare for the scenario of working from home and managing and promoting flexible work practices where possible.

TAFE Queensland’s Office of the CEO has maintained a register of all international staff and student movements, including known self-quarantine cases.

Links to Queensland health factsheets (current as at 20 March 2020)

COVID-19 prevention 5 ways to stop the spread of viruses.

Pandemic preparation the best things you can do right now are keep up-to-date with Queensland Health information, wash your hands often and properly, stay 1.5 metres away from people coughing or sneezing, and stay home if you’re sick.

Self-quarantine means staying in your home, hotel room or provided accommodation, and not leaving for the period you are required to quarantine.

TAFE Queensland COVID-19 information page

Link to TAFE Queensland information page on COVID-19

https://tafeqld.edu.au/current-students/health-advice.html

Queensland government information

Information/advice/policy from TAFE Q

Employment arrangements in pandemic (20 Mar 2020)

The QTU continues to work with the Department of Education, TAFE Queensland and other education stakeholder groups to advocate for the safety of our members, the students we teach, and our communities.

QTU and the Australian Education Union.

The QTU and our national affiliates through the Australian Education Union have written to the Prime Minister and members of the National Cabinet to express our grave concerns about the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and the implementation of the decisions taken by the National Cabinet with respect to preschools, schools and TAFE. A copy of the letter, signed on behalf of QTU members by our President, Kevin Bates, is available on the QTU website.

QTU and TAFE Queensland Consultative Committee.

The QTU and other unions that a party to the TAFE Queensland Award, 2016 formally meet with TAFE Queensland each quarter at the TAFE Queensland Consultative Committee (TQCC) to discuss work related matters. The most recent TQCC meeting was advised that TAFE Queensland Executive are now meeting on a daily basis to address COVID-19 related matters and that subsequent communication to employees and students will occur through CEO broadcasts, website and SPOT updates, and other collateral (e.g. fact sheets, flyers and posters).

TQCC was provided with the following information regarding announcements from TAFE Queensland’s CEO:

  • All TAFE Queensland work-related events and gatherings have been postponed or cancelled—this applies to anything outside of delivery of training.
  • All non-essential functions and events are to be cancelled.
  • All internal face to face network meetings that can’t be changed to Skype or observe social distancing are to be cancelled.
  • All work related international and non-essential domestic travel is to be cancelled.
  • Non-essential TAFE Services staff visits to alternate campuses are to be postponed with staff limiting movement between campuses.
  • Travelling for training purposes is to be reviewed through a risk assessment.
  • Attendance at all external work related meetings, conferences and/or workshops are recommended to be declined, or attended through non face to face options.
  • Suspend live personal services to the general public on TAFE Queensland campuses in live training environments of Hair and Beauty, Massage, Gymnasiums from Friday 20 March to Tuesday 14 April 2020.
  • Cease conferences, events or workshops arranged for third parties (e.g. Rotary) on or off TAFE Queensland premises including front of house hospitality supported by back of house students for assessment purposes. 

New TAFE Queensland policy ‘Employment arrangements in the event of a health pandemic’

Queensland unions, including the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU), have negotiated a new directive with the Office of Industrial Relations, Directive 01/20 Employment Arrangements in the Event of a Health Pandemic. Clause 17 of the directive establishes that it does not cover employees of statutory authorities like TAFE Queensland, however the QTU and other relevant union/s have consulted with TAFE Queensland and developed a new policy, Employment Arrangements in the Event of Health Pandemic. The new TAFE Queensland policy mirrors many of the new arrangements in the Office of Industrial Relations directive.

Attached is a comparative table between the TAFE Queensland policy and OIR Directive specific to Employment Arrangements in the Event of Health Pandemic. The table is a guide to compare key worker entitlements. TAFE Queensland Health Pandemic scenarios are also available, and these provide similar information to health pandemic scenarios in Schedule A of Directive 01/20.

Planning to deal with COVID-19 on campus

TAFE Queensland have advised that, in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus, it is TAFE Queensland’s intention to take every precaution to keep our students, staff and communities safe.  To that end, TAFE Queensland have protocols in place to fast track decision making should the need to close campuses arise.  TAFE Queensland are undertaking preparations with staff to prepare for the scenario of working from home and managing and promoting flexible work practices where possible.

TAFE Queensland’s Office of the CEO has maintained a register of all international staff and student movements, including known self-quarantine cases.

Links to Queensland health factsheets (current as at 20 March 2020)

COVID-19 prevention 5 ways to stop the spread of viruses.

Pandemic preparation the best things you can do right now are keep up-to-date with Queensland Health information, wash your hands often and properly, stay 1.5 metres away from people coughing or sneezing, and stay home if you’re sick.

Self-quarantine means staying in your home, hotel room or provided accommodation, and not leaving for the period you are required to quarantine.

TAFE Queensland : health pandemic scenarios

TAFE Queensland : Employment Arrangements in the Event of Health Pandemic (18 March)

TAFE Queensland COVID-19 information page

Link to TAFE Queensland information page on COVID-19

https://tafeqld.edu.au/current-students/health-advice.html



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