No wage cap, job security for TAFE teachers: Labor’s poll pitch

Federation has welcomed a Labor pledge to abolish the wage cap for TAFE teachers and bring the union back to the negotiating table over workloads and salaries while returning job security to the TAFE workforce, if elected at the March polls.

Speaking to a meeting of the TAFE Teachers Association in Sydney today (25 November), Shadow Minister for Skills and TAFE Tim Crakanthorp told members the years of neglect from the Liberal-National Government had left NSW with a “shell of a vocational education system”.

A Minns government will also guarantee at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding will go to TAFE each year, and it would open three new centres of excellence in the Hunter, Illawarra and western Sydney.

Public awareness of the TAFE crisis had widened after strike action on 2 November over the Government and TAFE NSW’s failure to engage in good faith bargaining for a new enterprise agreement since TAFE NSW’s proposed agreement was rejected by employees in August.

Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the members had been resolute in stating that teacher shortages, wages and workload will be a determining factor when people cast their vote in the NSW election on 25 March next year.

“How can you continue to provide the TAFE service that this state needs, when you slash the workforce by half in 10 years?” Mr Gavrielatos said. “How can you continue to provide the TAFE service, the skills training this state needs, when you treat your employees with utter contempt?”

“Bring on March 25, because the Perrottet Government has got to go.”

Mr Crakanthorp, the Member for Newcastle, told the TAFE TA: “A Minns Labor Government will support TAFE to deliver the long-term strategies needed to resolve skills shortages.

“It will tackle the conditions of hard-working TAFE teachers, starting with open dialogue with the sector and a truly fair bargaining system that reflects the value of their contribution to the education system. “It will address the handbrake on productivity caused by 12 years of a Liberal and National Government by abolishing the wage cap and replacing it with a system that delivers fair wages, starting with genuine negotiations to reduce workloads and make salaries more competitive.

“It will reverse the plague of insecure work, starting with giving TAFE teachers job security again.”

Mr Crakanthorp noted Australia was in the depths of a skills crisis, with the number of occupations on the National Skills Priority List almost doubling in the past year.

“We’re not just short of nurses, teachers and chefs, we also need mechanics, gardeners and auditors,” he said. “The only way to turn this around is to invest in a TAFE system that is accessible to all.”

He told TAFE members a Minns Labor government would “provide TAFE with the financing stability it needs to flourish, starting with a guarantee of at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding to TAFE each year”.

“It will work with industry to set-up the long-term training needs of this state, starting with Manufacturing Centres of Excellence in the Hunter, the Illawarra and Western Sydney.”

Mr Crakanthorp listed TAFE’s decline under the Coalition Government:

  • 14 campuses sold
  • more than a third of staff sacked
  • the number finishing apprenticeships and traineeships more than halved
  • TAFE enrolments plummeted by more than 100,000 students.

“Our TAFE system was once a force to be reckoned with. At the hands of the Liberals and Nationals it has been crippled,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

“Labor wants a vocational education system that is available for everyone – whether you didn’t finish school or even if you were dux, for people with a disability, those who do not speak English as a first language, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those who have experienced trauma, or anyone who just wants to do a course.

“It will right the wrongs of the past decade of mismanagement, starting with a review of the vocational education system. “Only a Minns Labor government will restore TAFE to what it used to be.”