By a TAFE unionist
The Labor states had been unified in opposing a Federal government requirement that TAFEs offer individual contracts to employees.
Such offers are a condition of getting Federal funding which amounts to about 30% of TAFE funding, nearly $5 billion.
It looks as though the state governments' opposition to the industrial conditions contained in Skilling Australia's Workforce Act is crumbling with news, as we go to press, that Queensland, WA and Victoria have come to terms with the Federal government and signed an agreement. They may think they can "box clever" and comply only in words with the requirement to ‘offer’ individual work contracts in TAFE.
In universities Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) are now required to be offered as individual contracts. Some unis make it a genuine choice for the employee. University delegates fear that this situation will change over time with the government obliging Uni managements to 'harvest' a quota of AWAs in order to obtain further government funds.
The federal government has also said that it plans to do the same for schools, making federal money conditional on the states offering AWAs to school teachers and other school employees.
According to the Campus Review:
"Opposition education spokesperson, Jenny Macklin, condemned the Federal Government for its method of securing Queensland's agreement.
"The Queensland Government has been forced to sign the agreement due to the Commonwealth's heavy-handed approach," Macklin told Campus Review.
"Last week the Commonwealth broke a promise made in April and withheld payment of TAFE funding, leaving the 250,000 TAFE students in Queensland in limbo. Despite only contributing 30 per cent of funding, the Commonwealth wants 100 per cent control over the VET system."
The article went on to say that South Australia was seeking to "clarify" the industrial requirements of Federal Minister for Training, Gary Hardgrave, and that other states were considering their positions.
It is up to TAFE unionists to plan for the new industrial reality being imposed by the Federal government and mobilise our strength in recruitment efforts and organising in the colleges while we still have time.
Some unionists are calling on the state governments to reject the AWAs blackmail, and respond by keeping back the money from taxes such as state employees' PAYE which are collected by the states. Only mass action by unionists and their supporters will force the state Labor governments to stand up for the labour movement and beat back Howard’s AWA plans.