16 September 2021 | Download PDF
TO: TAFE MEMBERS,
Latest information for QTU TAFE members
The past 21 months have not been easy, with a lot of uncertainty around our own health, safety and wellbeing as well as that of our family and members. We cannot predict where and when the next COVID outbreak will be, or the health advice and policy responses to that outbreak. On that basis, while the QTU understands that educators might take laptops or other work devices home over the weekend or periods of leave, we strongly encourage them to set aside time to exercise the right-to-disconnect from work. We know that many educators will work at home, plan or undertake professional development, or any number of other activities. We urge you to nominate blocks of time that are for you, your family, your friends, and communities. For those times, put your laptop in a cupboard or a drawer and leave it.
The impact of COVID on teachers, our students, and our communities is often framed by decision makers as a roadmap, with rolling, future-focused phases. Less frequently, we are reminded that Queensland teachers have expertly navigated through pandemic before.
Over a century ago, the Influenza epidemic resulted in health authorities making decisions to force restrictions like closing education facilities. At that time, the Queensland Education Journal pointed out, “Those teachers who rail at the health authorities over this matter should remember that they resent interference with the decision of the teaching matters in which they themselves are the experts.”
Today, more than a century later, the QTU maintains health advice related to the COVID pandemic needs to be determined by health experts. Enacting such advice in our schools and TAFE requires input from the teaching profession, and the QTU has participated in briefings with health authorities and consulted and advocated with education decision makers since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
At this time, there is health advice that impacts Queenslanders who are TAFE educators and students, especially those living and working in South East Queensland.
Face masks – South East Queensland
At this time, and at least until 4.00pm on 24 September, stage 3 restrictions continue for the 11 local government areas in South East Queensland. This applies to the wearing of face masks indoors and outdoors, including while using public transport and ride share.
You must wear a face mask at all times when you are indoors, including workplaces, unless:
- you can stay 1.5 metres away from others (only in your workplace)
- you are at your residence and there is no one else there except people you live with
- you are eating or drinking
- it is unsafe to wear a mask.
You must wear a face mask outdoors when you are unable to stay 1.5 metres away from people who are not from your household. You must also wear a face mask at public transport waiting areas or taxi ranks and in outdoor workplaces, unless:
- you are alone or with the members of your household
- you are alone in your car or with the members of your household
- you are eating or drinking
- you are participating in strenuous exercise
- it is unsafe to wear a mask.
Face masks – outside of South East Queensland
With the September school holiday beginning next week, there is an expectation that Queenslanders will become increasingly mobile. The health directive regarding face masks applies if you or someone from your household has been in South East Queensland since 1am on 29 June and it is less than 14 days since you left the impacted area.
If you are in or have been in these areas, you must wear a face mask at all times in public indoor and outdoor spaces, following the same rules as if you were in the impacted areas.
If you have not been in an impacted area, you are only required to wear a mask in some locations, such as stadiums with a capacity of 20,000 or greater, and in airports and on domestic flights.
The health advice is that everyone else in Queensland should keep a mask with them, so that if you are in a situation where you may not be able to maintain physical distancing, you have some added protection.
For more on face masks, including questions about face masks like “Who doesn’t have to wear a mask?” or “When can I remove my face mask?”, click here to visit the Queensland Government website.
The QTU’s supreme decision making body is the State Council, which is comprised of democratically elected members from every branch throughout Queensland and includes representation from the TAFE Division. At its meeting on 28 August, State Council adopted a COVID vaccination position.
To be clear, the QTU position supports COVID vaccinations.
The QTU encourages all members who are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to do so.
The QTU does not support employers mandating vaccination, unless this is required by law.
The Union advocated for many months for educators to be moved to vaccine priority 1b with other essential workers. In August, the Queensland Government included school and early childhood worker into this category. At the time of writing, the Queensland Government does not accept that increasing eligibility to the 155,000 employees of schools and early childhood should also include the 2.5 per cent of the state’s education workforce who are the 4,000 employees of TAFE.
As we have done since the COVID pandemic began, the QTU will continue to advocate on behalf of members of the TAFE Division.
The QTU is currently negotiating a replacement enterprise agreement on behalf of QTU members who are employed to deliver vocational education at Central Queensland University. Like many tertiary institutions, CQU has borne the financial brunt of COVID and the absence of international students. That aside, domestic demand for vocational education remains high, and one of CQU’s challenges is recruitment and retention of VET educators.
The QTU is pursuing the themes of programming, parity, and professionalism in the negotiations. Drawing the three themes together is the QTU’s claim for a Foundation Educator position, as was introduced into the TAFE Certified Agreement in 2019. There has been significant discussion regarding performance review, professional development, and currency and competency requirements for VET educators, including a focus on establishing requirements within the agreement. This has reinforced the importance of the professional development entitlement of a minimum of 10 days per year. There is no diminution of entitlement.
CQU has included annualisation of educator contact hours in its log of claims. This is opposed by the QTU. The claim is aimed at reducing overtime liabilities. The danger of implementation is high levels of delivery in successive weeks, resulting in fatigue and non-completion of non-contact duties, including RPL. It is opposed on the basis of WHS and the reduction of the overall attractiveness of CQU VET working conditions. The QTU supports agreements under the Team Based Working Arrangement clauses of the EA instead, which require agreement between management and employees and could be negotiated under existing working conditions.
16 September 2021: Latest information for QTU TAFE members
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Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street, Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064