TasTAFE cuts to staff conditions overturned for second time by Commission ruling

Unions have won a second round in the Fair Work Commission, with the Full Bench dismissing a TasTAFE appeal in a decision that protects workers’ conditions from cuts and broken Rockliff Government promises.

State branches of the Australian Education Union and the United Workers Union last November took TasTAFE to the Fair Work Commission contesting that new TasTAFE employees be employed on the same working conditions as current workers.

Unions won the first round and the entitlements fought for by union members were shared to all staff, with TasTAFE management forced to return annual leave and reduce working hours for new teachers.

TasTAFE appealed the decision, spending precious education funding on trying to strip conditions from their staff, in breach of Rockliff Government promises to maintain all entitlements and that no worker would be worse off. 

The ruling, upheld with the dismissal of TasTAFE’s appeal, is the first of its kind in Australia, with a contested application for a consolidation order having never been granted until now.

AEU Tasmania President David Genford said the ruling represented a huge win at a time when TasTAFE and union members are engaged in a new round of bargaining for new Agreements on wages and conditions.

“The Rockliff Government’s privatisation agenda was passed by Upper House Members on a lie that no employees will be worse off under these changes,” he said.

“I am proud to announce that this union win means the cuts to conditions the Government promised wouldn’t happen, have now been reversed.

“Unions warned the Rockliff Government and MLCs theirchanges would cut conditions for teachers and staff, and they did. Only union action has won them back.

“It is a disgrace that TasTAFE spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting to cut the conditions of teachers and staff, instead of improving conditions to address low morale and high rates of resignations that are making teacher shortages worse.”

Tasmania Coordinator Amy Brumby said the United Workers Union, representing the facility staff who clean and maintain TAFE campuses, are relieved the two tier, unfair pay structure will now be removed.

“This win will see us all paid the same, valued and renumerated equally for this essential work.” Amy Brumby said, “TasTAFE’s failed attempt to take money out of some of the state’s lowest paid workers during the current cost of living crisis is reprehensible.”

Under the union win, dozens of TasTAFE teachers employed since July 1, 2022 when staff were expelled from the State Service, will see their pay remain the same but will have their hours dropped from 38 to 35 per week, bringing this in line with employees on the old Agreement.

New TasTAFE teachers will also receive an extra week of leave – creating equity with existing workers – all with no loss of pay.

The Fair Work Commission has maintained a view that it was in the public interest that TasTAFE staff conditions are made consistent.

The Australian Education Union has maintained that wages and conditions must be boosted at TasTAFE for the Rockliff Government to keep their promise to employ 100 new teachers.

“This union win couldn’t come at a better time, ensuring that AEU member teachers and staff go into bargaining with the same conditions across the board,” said David Genford.

“The message to TasTAFE and the Rockliff Government is clear – stop trying to cut the conditions of TasTAFE teachers and staff, and keep your promise to boost pay and employ 100 new teachers.

“The starting point for negotiations are now the full set of conditions won by TasTAFE teachers and staff before they were expelled from their public service jobs. “This decision is great news for members, will help boost TasTAFE recruitment and sets a clear basis for negotiations towards new Agreements.”