Industrial strife brewing as TAFE teachers fight move to raise their hours
But the institutes want to block teachers from doing assessment hours in class-time, despite agreeing to this clause just over a year ago.
Teachers argue the change will open the door for the institutes to compel them to take on extra classes, intensifying their workload.
Staff at one institute, Bendigo Kangan, have already been put in this position, the union said.
“For TAFE institutes to do this is disrespectful to TAFE teachers, and is a blatant grab for more teaching hours to get greater productivity from AEU members that was never agreed to,” the union’s Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said.
Several TAFE institutes banded together last week to ask the Fair Work Commission to change the wording of the current multi-enterprise agreement, which they signed in October last year, to stipulate that assessment done in class-time must not count towards teaching hours.
Their actions “fly in the face of the agreed teaching arrangements outlined in the agreement which all TAFE CEOs signed in 2018,” Ms Peace said.
“It seems that when TAFE CEOs sign a deal, they don’t intend to honour it.”
She also said the Andrews government appeared to be complicit in the move.
“To make matters worse, the Victorian government appears to have endorsed this action,” Ms Peace said.
“Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was elected on the promise that he would save TAFE, yet it seems his government doesn’t support TAFE teachers and is prepared to allow TAFE CEOs to undermine the [agreement].”
Bendigo Kangan Institute has already moved to roster its staff to do extra supervision of students, on top of the usual teaching duties, sparking more than 30 individual disputes by teachers that will be heard at the Fair Work Commission.
One teacher at Bendigo Kangan Institute, who requested anonymity, said that following the move, face-to-face teaching hours had risen from an average 21 hours a week, as stipulated in the enterprise agreement, to between 27 and 30 hours class time for many teachers.
“Some teachers are doing 35 [face-to-face teaching hours a week] at Bendigo Kangan,” the teacher said.
Teachers were still getting paid for a standard 38-hour week, despite the increased workload, the teacher said, adding that the working week had blown out due to the need to complete their own professional development, plus admin work, on top of the extra time required for assessment.
The Age contacted Bendigo Kangan Institute for comment but was referred to the Victorian TAFE Association. The association did not return calls.
The Andrews government declined to weigh into the dispute.
“This matter is currently before the independent Fair Work Commission and we won’t be commenting,” a spokesperson said.
Federation University, Victoria University, Swinburne University, and RMIT TAFEs have not joined the other institutes in seeking to rewrite the workplace agreement.
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.