TasTAFE laws a path back to nepotism

The passing of new TasTAFE laws would reopen the organisation to nepotism problems of the past, the Australian Education Union Tasmania says.

A 2017 Integrity Commission investigation into TasTAFE slammed the abuse of employment processes with findings of nepotism that led to the resignation of a former TasTAFE chief executive.

AEU Tasmania President David Genford on Wednesday said the State Government’s proposed changes for TasTAFE – set for Upper House debate today – would undo positive steps forward for the organisation and result in a return to the bad old days.

“TasTAFE in 2018 committed to implementing ‘strengthened processes around recruitment and selection’ yet all that will go out the window if the State Government’s TasTAFE privatisation laws are passed,” he said.

The TasTAFE (Skills and Training Business) Bill 2021 before the Upper House would expel all TasTAFE teachers and staff from the public service and avoid the rigorous employment processes required in the state service – including transparency and accountability measures.

Mr Genford said there were already warning signs at TasTAFE with the recent addition of several executive-level positions at the organisation. 

Advertised this week is a CEO Office Manager position offering $114,077.00 to $120,116.00 per annum. 

“Is this how we deliver for students and industry into the future?” Mr Genford questioned.

“The latest TasTAFE annual report shows the organisation’s four executive directors fetched a combined $927,000 in 2020. This is on top of non-executive directors gathering more than $1.1 million last year.”

Mr Genford said under the State Government’s new TasTAFE laws, there would be less accountability around employment and how public money is spent.

“TasTAFE teachers and staff will continue to be paid with public money, so they should remain public servants and have all the proper processes and accountabilities around that – people should be employed on merit, not because they’re a mate of the CEO.”

“TasTAFE’s number one priority should be our students, yet these new laws appear more focused on attacking the jobs and conditions of hard-working teachers and creating shortcuts to nepotism than quality training and education.” 

Mr Genford said briefing documents showed the State Government case for new laws was falling apart and revealed how little the Government understood about teaching and TasTAFE operations.

A new Government Briefing Note complains: “The regulatory requirement for an industry competency means it is very difficult to retrain or redeploy a VET trainer or teachers to a new areas of industry specialisation (for example a hairdressing teacher cannot easily become a plumbing teacher).”

“We should all be alarmed if this State Government thinks it’s unreasonable that plumbing teachers can’t teach hairdressing,” Mr Genford said.

“This is why the Government is attacking TasTAFE teachers – because hairdressers can’t teach plumbing? The Liberal Party attacks on our public education and training provider are getting more ridiculous by the week.”