From the President: Put TAFE first
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 7, 27 September 2019, page no. 7
The revised EB10 offer from TAFE Queensland resolves a long list of claims made by the QTU through enterprise bargaining negotiations, but the threats to the viability of TAFE remain.
QTU members have voted to accept the revised EB10 offer, delivered by TAFE Queensland on 2 September, in the QTU approval ballot and will soon give final consideration in an employer ballot to be conducted by TAFE Queensland.
Outcomes have been achieved in our key priority areas of pay, permanency, programming and measures to address gender employment inequity. While Queensland TAFE educators will not be the best paid in the country, significant improvements in salary for all educators achieve a level of comparability with colleagues in other jurisdictions. New employee classifications for senior tutors, senior teachers, leading vocational teachers, educational team leaders and higher education will be included in the new agreement and will create clear career paths and greater salary horizons.
Employment security will be improved, and long-standing casual and temporary engagements converted to more secure forms of employment before the end of 2019. While this will be of benefit to all employees, women are over-represented in precarious employment and stand to gain more from greater employment security.
A range of new processes will provide mechanisms to address workload and work intensification, with emphasis on team-based decisions to ensure fair and equitable distribution of work and streamlined flexibility arrangements.
Structural issues that create inequitable outcomes for women working in TAFE are addressed through measures to be rolled out across the public service. The outcome will be a reduction in gender employment inequity, now a legal requirement of all new employment agreements and the right thing to do.
Importantly, the package does not require trade-offs of working conditions.
As a package of initiatives, the revised offer represents a good outcome for QTU TAFE Division members working in TAFE Queensland, and QTU TAFE Executive strongly recommended acceptance of the offer in both the QTU approval ballot and the TAFE Queensland employer ballot.
The issues of salaries and working conditions are capable of resolution. The broader problem now is securing the future of TAFE as the premier provider of vocational education and training, so TAFE can continue to provide the training Queenslanders can trust.
A significant impediment to the negotiation of a new enterprise bargaining agreement has been the funding policies of the Queensland Government, which apply to TAFE and all other providers of vocational education and training. Just a little more than a decade ago, TAFE delivered more than 70 per cent of the vocational education and training provided in Queensland. Today, the market share held by TAFE is down to 35 per cent and falling.
Every Australian jurisdiction except Queensland has changed its funding policies to abandon contestability: a policy setting requiring all providers to compete against each other for the pool of funding provided by state and federal governments. This disastrous policy, initiated by Labor federally in the first instance and embraced by conservatives more recently, has driven down salaries and working conditions and dramatically diminished the quality of education and training provided. The evidence of the damage is clear in the dramatic decline in the number of students undertaking studies in VET, including a catastrophic drop in apprenticeships. TAFE in other states and territories has rebounded following changes in this policy, with most returning to a market share of more than 70 per cent.
The Queensland Government has stopped the cuts to TAFE begun under the Newman LNP government, including preventing TAFE facilities from being closed and sold off. The next step is to rebuild TAFE, which can be achieved by immediately directing no less than 70 per cent of the current budget allocation for vocational education and training to TAFE.
The QTU has campaigned for this change in policy for the past three years, and the need for government to deliver has never been greater. The QTU State Budget Submission for 2020-2021 will again call out the need for the Queensland Government to put TAFE first to ensure that the Queensland economy is supported by a high quality, public vocational education and training system.
The QTU and TAFE Queensland have been building stronger Queensland communities for more than 130 years. The Queensland Government can ensure that TAFE is able to do this important work for many more years to come.