WA TAFE teachers' dispute
By Stephen Robson
PERTH — In early November, temporary teachers with TAFE were given a matter of days to sign new workplace agreements that dramatically cut working conditions. The Education Department threatened to advertise the jobs of those who refused to sign the agreements; it soon claimed that many temporary teachers were signing.
However, Peter Quinn, the general secretary of the State School Teachers Union (SSTU), told Green Left Weekly that only three or four teachers had actually signed the agreements. One hundred teachers had signed letters of intention to sign workplace agreements, but this distinction was obscured by the state government.
The SSTU took the issue before the federal Industrial Relations Commission. On November 11, the commission placed a temporary freeze on implementing the workplace agreement.
While granting permission to the state government to advertise the jobs on November 21, commissioner Bernard Frawley rejected the move to advertise only the jobs of those who refused to sign workplace agreements. Instead all 600 jobs will be advertised. The SSTU covers 90% of temporary teachers.
The union had been campaigning for two years to move to a federal award as a way of better protecting conditions. Frawley's decision is expected to expedite a hearing on this issue. As a way of fighting the trend toward temporary staff, the union will seek to have the award specify a quota of permanent staff.