Teachers say the Barry O’Farrell Coalition state government has divulged its plans to cut TAFE wages and conditions and then likely privatise it by splitting TAFE teachers away from the collective bargaining power of their primary and secondary teacher colleagues.
Education minister Adrian Piccoli introduced changes to the TAFE commission act into the NSW parliament on October 11 without notice or consultation with the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF).
On October 19, the bill to amend was passed by Parliament with the support of the Shooters and Fishers Party. This means that once the bill is proclaimed, the TAFE Commission will once again employ all staff working for TAFE NSW.
High school and primary school teachers plan to stop work for two hours on November 2 to discuss their forthcoming salary campaign. However, these changes will stop TAFE teachers from taking part in these stop work salary negotiations.
The bill will only preserve core TAFE conditions for a 12-month transition period. TAFE employees will then be forced to negotiate one or more enterprise agreements. Existing award conditions that are not permitted under the Fair Work Act 2009 will be lost.
If negotiations fail, it is likely TAFE teachers will fall under the federal Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010 where the maximum rate is $52,000 a year. This is a significant pay cut.
Wollongong TAFE Teachers Federation spokesperson Rob Long said: “Teachers are shocked by the disgraceful attack on TAFE teachers by the O'Farrell government.
“At a time when TAFE will need to retain and recruit the best employees, this attack on wages and conditions will have a detrimental effect.”
Piccoli’s manoeuvre is an attack against all NSWTF members because it will delay award negotiations with primary, secondary and TAFE teachers, which were scheduled to begin this month.
The NSWTF recently wrote to the government to commence negotiations for a new salaries award, but currently no salary offer has been made. Worst of all, this is a direct attack on the wages and conditions of fellow NSWTF members.
Federation president Bob Lipscombe also condemned the government's decision.
He said on October 11: “In what appears to be little more than a cynical move to stop TAFE teachers negotiating fair and reasonable salary increases as their current salaries award ends, the O'Farrell government is attempting to shift the teachers from their state award to coverage under the Federal government’s industrial legislation.”
Greens upper house MP John Kaye said on October 12: “Education Minister Adrian Piccoli is deliberately undermining the collective strength of public sector teachers and their union. Splitting TAFE teachers away from their colleagues in schools will no doubt make it easier for the O’Farrell government to attack wages and conditions.
“Teachers forced onto the Federal award are likely to face individual contracts. Staff will have to work longer hours for less pay. Student learning will inevitably suffer.
“This is a direct attack on the union. Under federal law, payroll deduction of membership fees is illegal, making it much harder to maintain density in a highly casualised sector.
“Minister Piccoli's decision to cut TAFE off from the state public sector is another cog in the wheel of vocational education and training privatisation. Both the Gillard and O'Farrell governments have no interest in public provision.”
The NSWTF has urged its members to write to their state member, the Minister and Premier to express their anger. Collective industrial action across all education sectors will be needed to defeat these attacks.