TAFE teachers strike

The Gordon TAFE in central Geelong.

By Jena Carr

TAFE teachers from The Gordon Geelong have joined the state in a strike for better pay and work as the TAFE teacher shortage worsens.

The TAFE participated in the statewide stopwork action, which had not occurred since 2008, on June 12 and walked off the job for an hour to campaign for decent wages and conditions.

Australian Education Union (AEU) The Gordon Geelong branch president and TAFE teacher Matt Henry said negotiations with the state government for better pay and conditions started two years ago.

“Whilst the government thinks they can solve the TAFE problem by offering free TAFE, free TAFE is no good if you’ve got no teachers,” he said.

“We’ve got a real TAFE teacher shortage…and a lot of teachers are becoming disillusioned with the long period of inaction by the state government.

“Where people are overworked and underpaid, no one wants to work in that industry anymore…and it’s got to the stage where stopwork action is our only option.”

An AEU report found that 71 per cent of TAFE teachers considered leaving their jobs last year due to unsustainable workloads, high stress, poor TAFE funding, and inadequate pay.

Mr Henry said teachers with his qualifications were getting close to $8000 more per year in other education sectors such as secondary schools.

“It shouldn’t matter whether I’m teaching VCE in a school, or whether I’m teaching TAFE, I should get the same pay,” he said.

“The people who suffer from this are, for one, the staff, but secondly, the students because while we’re not there, they don’t have any classes.

“The Gordon, it’s an institution in Geelong and hopefully the state government will take action to keep it being the educational institute that it has the potential to be.”

Mr Henry said more stop-work action was planned for next month and a full-day strike during August to persuade the state government to make a change.

A state government spokesperson said the state government had invested more than $4.5 billion in TAFE since 2014 and would continue to invest in TAFEs and teachers.

“We are working with TAFEs across the state to make sure all Victorians get the training and skills they need for the jobs they want,” they said

“We respect the right of TAFE teachers to take industrial action and encourage the union to return to the table with the Victorian TAFE Association so disruptions to students are minimised.

“Victoria is home to some of the most talented TAFE teachers in Australia and we continue to support them to do what they do best, teach the next generation of workers in their field.”

The spokesperson said negotiations for the new enterprise agreement were ongoing.