Negotiations underway for new enterprise agreement

TAFE Talk: Education Quarterly, Issue 8 2023

Federation and TAFE NSW have begun formal bargaining for a replacement to the current TAFE NSW Teachers and Related Employees Enterprise Agreement, which expires on 31 January, 2024. We are pursuing salary parity with our schools’ colleagues, regardless of increases achieved by other NSW public sector workers.

The union will also seek further improvements on the gains made last year in job security. More than 500 long-term, parttime casual teachers have moved into temporary or permanent positions thanks to the actions of members in last year’s enterprise agreement campaign. This is great start but we must do better.

In the previous salaries round, TAFE NSW put its offer – a salary increase of just 2.53 per cent over 12 months (in line with the Perrottet government’s state wages policy), with no changes to conditions – directly to employees, as permitted under federal Fair Work legislation.

Federation advised members to reject the offer, and it was rejected by 73 per cent of the employees who voted. Then Federation’s TAFE members voted “yes” to take protected action under a Protected Action Ballot Order (PABO), issued by the Fair Work Commission.

Types of protected industrial action available to TAFE members under the PABO included stopping work, working to rule, bans on entering student attendances and results, bans on responding to emails outside of normal work hours, as well as posting union promotional materials around TAFE campuses and wearing union T-shirts.

TAFE members held a 24-hour stopwork across more than 60 sites, the first time they had taken industrial action in more than 10 years, since being pushed into the federal Fair Work industrial relations system.

Substantial increases in salary and conditions are not given freely regardless of the colour or brand of the party in government at the time. Increases in salary and conditions are won by the strength and solidarity of the union membership in the workplace.

Put simply, there is strength in numbers; we need to grow union membership to grow union strength. Accordingly, members should encourage nonmembers to attend a local branch meeting with a view to join Federation.

Organisers will be conducting branch meetings in TAFE colleges to keep members up to date on negotiations as they progress. Members should contact their college Federation Representative to facilitate a branch meeting in their workplace.