Time to implement the TAFE agreement
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 1, 21 February 2020, page no. 13
On Friday 31 January, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission certified the TAFE 2019 enterprise agreement.
The new certified agreement (CA) (https://www.qtu.asn.au/tafe) will run for four years and is backdated to 1 July 2019. Much of it will require a concerted effort by members, Workplace Reps and Union Officers to not only roll out but also enforce.
So what mechanisms are available to assist with implementing the CA?
Firstly, employees need to be at least familiar with not only the new certified agreement, but also the conditions contained within the TAFE Queensland Award – State 2016. The two documents must be read together, with the CA informing and modifying the award and indeed overriding it in the event of inconsistency.
Secondly, both Workplace Reps and members will be offered training by the Union. There will be an ongoing series of roadshows and information sessions on the intention and interpretation of the CA and the award, as well as training on how to resolve disputes.
We need to use the mechanisms provided to proactively tackle problems as they arise. These include the disputes process and standing consultative bodies provided for in the CA to enable consultation, dispute resolution and workload management. There are two consultative bodies: the local consultative committee (LCC) and the TAFE Queensland Consultative Committee (TQCC).
The LCC is the peak industrial forum within the region. Each region must have an LCC. The TQCC is the whole of TAFE Queensland forum for managing matters that cannot be resolved in the region and for examining systemic issues. The CA provides explicitly for the establishment of both LCC and TQCC.
The LCC serves as the key mechanism to implement the CA, as well as forming a component of the CA dispute resolution process. It serves to explore the broad range of local issues that affect TAFE Queensland regional employees, including workload.
LCCs are required to assess each proposed team-based working arrangement and approve it in accordance with the requirements of the CA. The LCC also serves as a mechanism for managing workload, and needs to be involved in:
- researching workload issues, including addressing specific workload issues referred by staff of work units, employee representatives and/or management
- developing expedient processes for referral of workload issues to the LCC
- developing strategies to improve immediate and long-term workload issues
- assessing the implications of workload from a workplace health and safety perspective and referring relevant matters to the Workplace Health and Safety Committee.
It should also look at proposals that will impact upon employees’ working conditions. TAFE Queensland has a duty to consult over significant change, and under section 13 of the award, “Consultation - introduction of changes”, must notify employees and their Unions. The LCC is an appropriate forum to commence such notification and consultation.
Changes likely to have significant effects on employees include changes to production, program, organisation, structure or technology. The term “significant effects” includes:
- termination of employment
- major changes in the composition, operation or size of workforce
- skills required
- elimination or diminution of job opportunities or tenure
- alteration of hours of work
- retraining or transfer of employees to other work or locations
- restructuring of jobs.
However, the LCC does not remove or supplant management’s responsibility to ensure the good order and conduct of the region and its effective day to day management. The right of management to manage is an important one. But consultation is not simply telling staff what will happen. True consultation is sharing relevant information, giving workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views, raise issues and contribute to decision making, and genuinely taking workers’ views into account. Effective management involves, and good leadership demands, involving people and seeking a wide set of views and then taking people with you.
Implementing a hard-fought-for set of working conditions is never easy. But by taking up Workplace Representative roles and nominating and serving on the LCC, by communicating with Workplace Reps, and by standing together, members will be able, as professional educators, to enforce the working conditions they fought for.