About 70% of TAFE teachers walked off the job on November 19 as part of a branch-organised wildcat strike.
The strike was voted on in a combined branches meeting of Ultimo TAFE New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) members the day before, attended by up to 300 teachers.
Wildcat strikes have been occurring on TAFE campuses across NSW, in defiance of a September 1 order from the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) that demanded neither NSWTF nor its members engage in industrial action for three months.
Union are willing to risk loss of pay and fines to ensure that the proposed changes, handed down by the IRC on October 15 and currently scheduled for implementation in 2010, do not go ahead.
The changes will mean teachers' workloads increase, as will teaching and attendance hours for full-time teachers, resulting in a likely loss of work for part-time and casual teachers. The workload would increase by 16% for a 1.5% pay rise.
TAFE teachers have vowed to defend their conditions from being further slashed. If successful, the cuts would result in poor quality vocational education and ultimately lead to a further increase in the skills shortage of qualified teachers.
NSWTF president Bob Libscombe said on November 10: "If this dispute is not settled, school teachers in public primary and high schools across the state will join with their TAFE colleagues to take combined industrial action within weeks."
[Details of the TAFE attacks can be found at www.nswtf.org.au/media. Sibylle Kaczorek is a casual TAFE Teacher.]