There are several words that come to mind when I think about how to sum up 2022.
But in a year educators were challenged in more ways than one, one word stands out.
As I attended my daughter’s end of year Leavers’ Dinner, I reflected on all the amazing work coming out of Tasmanian schools; and just how well our school communities have navigated the year that was.
Thinking back to 12 months ago, Tasmania was preparing to lift border restrictions and our schools and colleges were entering a period of unknown.
Educators were rightfully showing unrest as we began Term 1, and AEU member surveys confirmed feelings of insecurity.
So, we acted – guided by members.
It was clear from the outset the State Government had insufficient measures in place to cope with any COVID outbreaks in schools and colleges.
Ventilation measures were being ignored, masks and RATs weren’t available and social distancing didn’t seem to apply to the school environment.
It was because of strong union advocacy our school communities were made safer.
Despite the Government failing to undertake a proper ventilation audit of schools, it was pleasing a number of other safety significant measures were rolled out off the back of AEU pressure.
I am proud of our members’ efforts in helping build better and safer learning environments for all in 2022.
Despite some wins in this area, challenges continued in 2022.
The AEU last year fought a relentless but unwinnable fight as our parliamentarians voted to privatise TasTAFE.
The transition of TasTAFE to a Government Business was rolled out earlier this year and unfortunately, but expectedly, the results haven’t been good.
Under the government’s move, new TasTAFE teachers are being paid up to 30 per cent less than existing teachers, while the organisation has seen a net loss of 25 teachers since May.
In better news, the Federal Budget delivered a $92m TAFE investment, with a TAFE technology fund and 180,000 fee-free TAFE and vocational education places announced, including extra support for participation of women and other priority groups.
The AEU will never give up advocating to improve working conditions in TasTAFE despite the challenging 12 months the organisation has endured. We look forward to supporting TAFE members in 2023 as they negotiate a new Agreement under the Fair Work system for the first time.
Like the stresses felt for TasTAFE educators, DECYP employees also endured a year crippled by untenable working conditions.
Annually released Department of Education data showed worker psychological injuries climbed 50 per cent and record numbers of teachers in their first 5 years left the profession last year – a sign of the unabated stresses our state’s educators are dealing with weekly.
With educators walking away amid ballooning workloads, we know this only increases the burden on staff left behind.
Members this year showed the unacceptable working conditions in our schools and colleges cannot be tolerated any longer.
I am proud of all members who turned out and stood up for better public education by attending recent stop work actions held all across the state.
It was through this strong member action of teachers, ESPs, principals, social workers and many others that the State Government began waking up to the need for change in our schools and colleges.
Negotiations on a new Teachers Agreement will continue in 2023, because educators have made it clear to the government that any offer must include significant workload solutions. We look forward to progressing these discussions to get the best offer possible for teachers.
ESP and AHP members look set to receive some big wins after members recently passed successful ballots. Congratulations to all ESP and AHP members who have contributed to winning an offer with significant improvements in conditions for our valued members.
Implementation of both AHP and PSUWA Agreement may still depend on the approval of members across other unions and the State Service departments. I will keep members informed on this process as the weeks progress.
2022 has been a giant year for all educators, and I sincerely hope all members can enjoy some down-time over summer – you have earnt it!
It has been a pleasure representing you and advocating for your working conditions this year and I look forward to that continuing in 2023.
AEU Tasmania President