TAFE staff rally to defend jobs

A rally against TAFE job cuts, in Sydney on November 28. Photo: CPSU NSW/FB

Some 200 TAFE staff and supporters rallied outside the Sydney campus on November 28 to demand the NSW government halt its job cuts.

The NSW Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) condemned the government plan to cut 200 jobs and demanded that the “restructure” of TAFE be stopped until there has been effective consultation with the union and staff.

The previous day, the CPSU NSW assistant state secretary Troy Wright described the Change Management Plans, announced by NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee, as “unlawful”.

“The enterprise agreement for these workers clearly sets out how consultation on structural changes should take place. This process has not been followed.”

The job cuts were sprung on employees the previous week. The proposal is to cut 91 permanent staff roles and 105 contingency staff (employed through labour hire).

Wright said the job cuts would harm NSW TAFE’s Information and communications technology and student services, facilities management and logistics and safety. The timing is also heartless, he said, pointing to the proximity of Christmas.

The cuts are another blow to NSW’s vocational and training sector, which has already had to adjust to cuts of about $140 million since 2014, Wright said.

“This is an attack on the very idea of publicly-funded vocational education by ideological vandals who want to eliminate public sector competition for private sector colleges.”

He said the dismantling of the TAFE system has been “brutal” in regional NSW where “thriving, well-staffed campuses have been replaced with poorly staffed centres where students simply log on and pick up information from a larger centre”.

Negotiations are continuing between union and TAFE management representatives in the NSW Industrial Commission.

Meanwhile, the NSW government has spent $6.4 million on private consultants for TAFE since June 2018, according to the December 2 Sydney Morning Herald. The outlay includes paying firms to “review its operating model”, conduct “culture surveys”, promote “brand awareness” and provide recruitment services.

Labor shadow minister for TAFE Jihad Dib accused the government of “squandering millions on top-end-of-town consultants at a time when it is cutting TAFE jobs”.

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