On June 5, New South Wales Teachers Federation state council voted to initiate a “Stop the Privatisation” forum to organise against the state government’s privatisation plans for the public sector.
The forum will invite participation from the Public Sector Association (PSA), Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) and other public sector unions. After the forum, the federation will initiate a public sector delegates meeting to discuss and organise a public sector-wide response to the privatisation agenda.
The initiative is in response to NSW TAFE and adult migrant education services (AMES) being stripped of $50 million of federal funding. As part of its neoliberal agenda, the federal government's competitive tendering policy will strip funding from NSW TAFE and AMES for their Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP) courses over the next three years.
In NSW, many TAFEs have recently lost their tenders to private providers.
Local audits of the LLNP at TAFE colleges demonstrated that delivery was of high quality with successful outcomes. TAFE teachers delivering these programs have university teacher education qualifications and experience working with adult learners. Teachers in private colleges are paid well below the TAFE award and endure inferior working conditions.
As a result, students will be pushed into lower quality education. Up to 170 TAFE and AMES-equivalent full-time teaching positions will be lost in each of the next three years. Many of them will be part-time, casual teaching positions.
Many students yet to finish TAFE or AMES courses may be forced to attend another institute after June. Many private providers lack infrastructure and university-qualified teachers, as well as the counselling services offered by TAFE and AMES.
In addition to the proposed anti-privatisation forum, the Teachers Federation campaign will also involve lobbying local politicians, organising local actions, and supporting the Unions NSW Better Services campaign.
The forum will also be an opportunity for other public sector unions to highlight their struggles. For example, the FBEU is campaigning against the evening closure of fire stations as part of a state government cost-cutting measure. The PSA is campaigning against the privatisation of NSW prisons, State Lotteries and the retail arm of NSW electricity.
The Teachers Federation June state council resolution read: “We reject the Federal Labor Government pursuit of privatisation rather than better public services for the Australian people. This can only undermine its stated aim of building a strong and prosperous nation through a highly qualified, well educated and trained workforce.”
[John Gauci is secretary of the Inner City Teachers Association and a member of the NSW Teachers Federation executive.]