TAFE Governance Proposal14-04-2011
As a consequence of the recent round of “consultations” over the proposals to corporatise TAFE as set out in the TAFE SA Governance position paper, a special meeting of the AEU TAFE Divisional Council was held last week. Pat Forward, Federal AEU TAFE Secretary, was invited to provide some more detailed information about statutory authorities and what implications this could have for TAFE employees in South Australia.
The concern expressed by delegates was that in the consultation/information forums run by DFEEST, there was no clear example of what sort of statutory authority was being proposed, in fact the consistent statement was that “we have no particular model in mind”. It is the AEU’s view that this is extremely unlikely.
The concern around the separation of TAFE and establishing it as a Statutory Authority is that this is the first step towards privatisation. The proposal to establish the Office of TAFE as a single statutory authority with the three Institutes reporting to it is certainly a preferred approach to the Victorian model where each of the 18 TAFE Institutes is a separate statutory authority with the right to “hire and fire” resting with the Institute Director and or the board of management.
The Minister for Employment, Training and Further Education, Jack Snelling, has verbally stated that TAFE Act employees would remain as employees of the government, but for how long you might ask.
While the first step might be simply one of separating TAFE from the purchasing arm of government, with employees remaining as government employees, it would not be beyond the realms of possibility that they could then decide to restructure the organisation, as has happened with other statutory authorities, and offer employees the option of working for the new organisation on somewhat different employment arrangements.
When you look at the recent arbitrated decision for TAFE Act staff, which gives more certainty to permanent employment and control over workload, and then you listen to the comments from government and TAFE management about “needing much greater flexibility” – jargon for more casualisation of the workforce – one can anticipate what is coming.
The next round of enterprise bargaining will commence early next year. Statements from government that they will honour the industrial arrangements until the next agreement are a clear indication of what is on their mind. While the working conditions of TAFE employees can’t change until there is a new agreement, it is likely to be a hard slog in this next EB.
And with the separation of TAFE from the school sector, it is imperative that we increase union membership in workplaces. There is strength in numbers.
If there is a need to exert some industrial pressure next year when the bargaining process reaches a stalemate, it will be TAFE members, without the backing of their school sector colleagues, who will need to deliver. This means that we need to take every opportunity to encourage people to join the AEU between now and then.
As a consequence of considering these issues, TAFE Divisional Council resolved that the AEU should seek an immediate meeting with the Minister in order to clarify which model of governance was being considered, and what process was being put in place to evaluate the models and involve AEU members and other stakeholders in that process.
Furthermore, it was decided that the AEU should seek a commitment from the Minister to ongoing consultation over the next 12 months so that the union is fully informed about the proposed governance arrangements and the likely impact on employment and working conditions of TAFE lecturers.
It was further agreed that the AEU should ensure that there is regular communication with TAFE members on Skills for All and the TAFE Governance proposals. One aspect of this was a proposal that the AEU arrange a series of meetings across TAFE Campuses in Term 2. These would give members an opportunity to discuss these proposals and provide some direct feedback to the AEU.