TAFE NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT TO THE AEU NEWS •JULY 2010
Reasons to be cheerful The TAFE sector may be suffering a winter of discontent in tune with the season, but there is cause for optimism. Jo Fogarty vice president, TAFE and adult provision
E HAVE reached the halfway mark for the year and I hope you managed to have a break before Semester 2 started. It is cold and bleak outside; this is a good description of TAFE at the moment too. It is always hard to remain positive, motivated and active at this time of year, especially when the seasonal gloom is coupled with TAFE’s own bleak midwinter, in the form of the Brumby Government’s skills reforms. As I write this I am suffering from a horrible cold and feeling miserable, so it is time to pull myself together and think positive thoughts! Play the Pollyanna Glad Game perhaps! I know this sounds twee but we need cheering up. So what should we be glad about? Let us start with the basics. We have a multi-business agreement that gave TAFE teachers a long-awaited pay increase. I will never forget arriving at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne when TAFE teachers took their first stopwork action in many years and seeing the sea of red ponchos, posters and a packed theatre with people spilling onto the street. The march by thousands of TAFE teachers to Parliament House was a momentous occasion. Not only was I glad to be a TAFE teacher and AEU TAFE members at the Athenaeum member, I was immensely proud. Remembering this show of the power of collective action is good therapy indeed. We should also be glad that the MBA continues to protect our annual workload and our weekly and annual attendance requirements. To retain these was a great achievement as they are viewed as very “bargainable” by others. However, there is a big “But” to this piece of gladness. What we must do now is continue to act to preserve them. The fact that these rights are in writing does not automatically translate to implementation. It is the responsibility of every member to remind colleagues and employers that these rights were hard fought for and you are entitled to them. In my visits to TAFE institutes and in discussion with members it is of great concern to me that so many employees are not aware of their entitlements or are hoodwinked into believing that they are not eligible for them. We should not erode those entitlements by conceding to unreasonable or uninformed demands from employers, or put up with employers who pay lip service to the MBA — an agreement which their peak body the Victorian TAFE Association (VTA) bargained for on their behalf and which they are legally bound to implement. Almost every member I talk to tells me their workload is burgeoning and becoming unmanageable. So, make sure you know your agreement and if you are unsure of any matters
contact your AEU representative. If you do this you will be looking after yourselves and your colleagues. You will be able to manage and maintain your workload and thereby establish some work/life balance. This will make you feel much better. I have to admit my enthusiasm evaporates when I think about the Brumby Government’s skills reforms. Here there is nothing to be glad about. You will have received our special TAFE 4 All newsletter by now; as I write this, we are still waiting anxiously for news of any significant changes as a result of the review. Yesterday I received a copy of a discussion paper from the South Australian Government on skills policy. Sadly, its premise is the same demand-driven/user choice model that we are coming to grips with in Victoria. Another state intends to abandon its commitment to adequately funding TAFE and introduce contestability. Finally it is important to remain positive and focus on the day-to-day things you achieve in your work as a TAFE teacher. You work in a sector that is noted for its quality of provision even with such chronic under-funding. Despite the politics and the educational and economic reform confronting you, you continue to act professionally. As an educator you make a difference to someone’s life every day, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to participate in family, work and community life. The sector relies on your skills, knowledge, dedication, flexibility, ingenuity and hard work to survive. Without you, TAFE cannot exist. TAFE teachers have successfully adapted to many changes over the years and I believe we will continue to do so. In this bleak time for TAFE, believing this makes me feel so much better. ◆
www.aeuvic.asn.au/tafe TAFE has its own section on the new, redesigned AEU website. Go to www.aeuvic.asn.au/tafe, or click on TAFE in the drop-down menu under Your Sector. You can find information about your pay and conditions, advice sheets, special offers and more in the new members-only section of the site. For your own unique password, click on “Register” in the members login box and follow the simple steps. Your members area gives you access to advice sheets, publications, special offers and more. You can also read this newsletter online.
A E U h e a d o f f i c e 112 Trenerr y Crescent, Abbotsford 3067 Tel: 03 9417 2822 Fax : 1300 658 078 Web : www.ae u v i c . a s n . a u
Your right to casual conversion AU S T R
Casual teachers now have greater rights to more secure employment thanks to last year’s TAFE Agreement. As many teachers become eligible, now is the time to act.
UNE 17 not only marked the anniversary of the new TAFE Agreement — it was also the date that many casual teachers became entitled to ask for more secure employment. Clause 13 of the MBA sets out the opportunities that casual teachers now have to convert to noncasual employment; the AEU encourages sessional members who meet the criteria to take up these opportunities. You can find the agreement at www.aeuvic.asn.au/tafe_pay. Eligibility kicks in after 12 months of employment at an institute — hence the June 17 date when the first teachers became eligible. Casual teachers should be informed by their managers on appointment of their rights to conversion, any qualifying periods and the application procedures. No casual teacher should have their hours reduced, their employment terminated or be unable to be re-engaged just because the manager wants to avoid the conversion process. Am I eligible? You are eligible if you are employed on a regular basis in the same or similar, identically classified position in the same or equivalent department, and have completed 400 teaching duty hours in the previous 12 months. Future rounds of conversion occur as the teacher reaches the 12 months mark and has completed the 400 teaching duty hours. Alternatively a casual teacher on and from 17 June 2011 (ie, 24 months from commencement
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of the MBA) becomes eligible to apply for conversion no matter how many casual teaching hours they have worked. How do I apply? An eligible casual employee may apply in writing for conversion to non-casual employment in accordance with the conversion provisions of the MBA. If the application is accepted, the employee will be offered a non-casual position. Check your employer’s application process with your Human Resources Department. On what grounds can my application be refused? The employer cannot unreasonably refuse a request for conversion. Refusal may occur where the employee: • Is or was recently a student • Is a genuine retiree • Has a primary occupation elsewhere • Fails to meet the position requirements. Conversion can also be refused if: • Work will continue for less than 26 weeks • A non-casual will do the job within 26 weeks • Work is irregular or ad hoc, involving irregular hours. What if my application is rejected? The employer cannot unreasonably refuse a request for conversion. If the employer rejects the application, it must provide written reasons for rejecting the application. Members should contact their AEU workplace representative, their consultative committee repre-
Jo Fogarty vice president, TAFE and adult provision
sentatives or their organiser if their application is rejected so that it can be established whether the rejection was unreasonable or not. What mode of employment will I be, if converted? Conversion may be to either an ongoing or fixed term appointment. An offer of conversion must indicate the hours and pattern of work required by the employer and as far as practicable be consistent with the previous casual work. Will my previous casual service be recognised? 400 hours of casual teaching will count as one (1) increment for placement on the classification scale. Casual service may also be recognised for eligibility for long service leave in particular circumstances but will not count for any paid leave entitlement If your application for casual conversion is rejected, please notify us by email to casualcon@ aeuvic.asn.au ◆ For more information on Casual Conversion, see your AEU TAFE A–Z guide or the new Casual Conversion advice sheet. To download both, go to www.aeuvic.asn.au/ tafe_pay.
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TAFE newsletter |July 2010
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Unnatural justice Natural justice seems to disappear when managers hear student complaints, as their zeal to cut salary bills reduces dedicated teachers to collateral damage. Andrew Ferguson AEU TAFE organiser
HE handling of complaints about the performance and conduct of teachers in TAFE institutes is increasingly of concern for teachers and the AEU. All too frequently we are asked to accompany members to meetings that are hastily called, riddled with bias and with an outcome that is a foregone conclusion. The “investigators” — usually managers with no investigative experience or training — clutch institute codes of conduct and discipline procedures like security blankets, never far from the phone to get “clarification” of some aspect of the process. Their agenda is about reducing corporate risk, not about fairness and justice or supporting teaching staff doing difficult work. It is about protecting the market, driving down costs and all too regularly burning the teacher. Meanwhile the staff member is in shock. Usually they have been ambushed with a request to “come to my office for a moment please” — or simply handed a letter. Suddenly their world is in turmoil, their finances face devastation and their professional persona is shattered. They are both appalled and outraged, with a burning sense of injustice. How can this happen so suddenly? All too often, the issue originates in student complaints gleaned from things like student satisfaction surveys and “discussions” with student services. Young, inexperienced students, often with educational and cultural misunderstandings, unleash processes they don’t understand, without any idea of the consequences for the teacher involved. The more malicious students attack the teacher as a means of defending their own lack of work or poor behaviour. Complaints, often poorly written,
inarticulate and of petty content, are used to construct a case against professional teachers with years of training and exemplary service. The fact that sometimes the language used is clearly not the student’s or the obvious collusion in what is being said are of no consequence to the investigator. Serial offenders with repeated poor behaviour and results are given credence over staff who have often put decades of their lives into teaching. Students struggling with basic English and others who have dropped out of secondary school say that lessons are boring, that they are confused and don’t understand or worst of all that the teachers don’t know what they are teaching. Teaching and learning must now be entertaining, there must be instant understanding, and undereducated “clients” are now curriculum experts. This is absurd, yet in the process of managing student complaints this is the sort of thing that is occurring. Exaggerated complaints and biased outcomes A second trend is of more concern. Too many older experienced teachers are facing minor complaints exaggerated and used by opportunist managers. These are ongoing staff, and at the expensive end of the salary scale. Managers don’t want them — they are less tolerant of the new market-driven training system and object to incompetent management parachuted in from industry and lacking any real grasp of teaching and learning. These teachers expect quality outcomes for students and resent the “pay and pass” culture that now prevails in TAFE. They hold standards, demand quality work and so upset some students. Students complain and managers act. They turn to the codes of conduct and institute discipline procedures. These documents are poorly
written and open to interpretation at every clause. They cannot be applied objectively yet are held to be beyond reproach. The Commonwealth Attorney-General Department defines “natural justice and procedural fairness” as requiring: • A hearing appropriate to the circumstances • Lack of bias • Evidence to support a decision • Inquiry into matters in dispute. It is the bias rule that causes the most concern. The decision maker — usually an HR manager or CEO — relies exclusively on the investigator despite all that is claimed in defence of the process. They do not have the time or often the interest to exercise the required open-mindedness. They are heavily reliant on the investigator who has the time and resources to slant the recommendation in a way that will persuade them. And despite the fact that they must not have an interest in the matter being decided or appear to bring a biased or prejudiced mind to the decision, these decision makers have a direct or indirect interest in the outcome. The worst form of bias is where the decision makers have a pecuniary interest in the matter. What weight should be given to a corporate pecuniary interest where bonuses and contract renewals are dependant on keeping costs down? In market-driven, cash-strapped, studentdependent TAFE institutes, can anyone claim that they don’t have a pecuniary interest in running down wages by getting rid of more expensive staff, or in propping up enrolments by kowtowing to student complaints, no matter how ill-informed or minor they may be? It’s all about protecting the market and too many teachers are becoming collateral damage. ◆
The Brumby Government heard this message and has announced it will fund the pay rises if the case is successful. This is wonderful news for our disability members and a big tick to the Government for making this commitment. As you know our disability sector members are long overdue a decent pay rise and recognition of the demands of the work they undertake. Hearings are now underway over the equal remuneration order lodged by unions before Fair Work Australia. Our application demands equal pay for work of equal value and argues that the skills and professionalism of workers in the sector have been historically undervalued.
EU members and officials rallied with other unions in Federation Square on June 10 to mark a national day of action by social, community and disability sector workers. Some of you wore red to work that day in support of the action. It was a hugely successful rally, and the message was clear: “Pay up! No more lip service to equal pay!” The action was in support of the joint case by unions including the AEU for an increase in the base wages of disability and community sector workers. With another national day of action planned for later in the year, unions are determined to campaign until equal pay is achieved.
The Brumby Government has pledged to deliver any pay rises recommended in the current equal pay case for disability and community workers.
This application follows a successful pay equity test case in Queensland in 2009 where social, community and disability sector workers were given pay rises of between 18% and 37%. Unions are submitting supporting evidence. An outcome is expected at the end of the year. ◆
— Mark Hyde deputy vice president, TAP
Federal round-up Jo Fogarty vice president, TAP
HE AEU’s federal campaign for better funding is ongoing. Our State of Our TAFEs survey — the first national survey of staff working in TAFE — has shown that across Australia TAFE teachers are struggling with higher workloads and inadequate resources. A report by the Centre for the Economics of Education and Training has found that funding per student has declined over 22% since 1977, while funding to private providers has increased. To meet COAG targets to halve the number of unqualified
or underqualified Australians and to increase the proportion of people with higher level qualifications would require an additional $200 million a year on average from 2009-2020. All this at a time when Victoria has moved to a contestable funding model and South Australia has released a discussion paper also espousing contestability. A national VET regulator has been established. Its purpose is to improve the quality of VET as part of the Skills for Sustainable Growth package announced in the 2010–11 budget. Kaye Schofield has been appointed interim chair and John Smyth
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has been appointed interim CEO of this body. Meanwhile, the Productivity Commission has released an issues paper, Vocational Education and Training Workforce Productivity Commission Issues Paper June 2010. The AEU Victorian branch and federal office will respond shortly. ◆
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