Australia: Attack on working conditions linked to teachers’ stress

published 8 January 2018 updated 9 January 2018

Australian educators have protested against deteriorating work conditions in the technical and further education sector in Victoria, a direct threat to quality education.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) teachers and supporters rallied on 12 December outside the office of Gayle Tierney, State Member for Western Victoria, to protest the state government’s attempt to slash TAFE teachers’ working conditions. Tierney is the Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for Corrections in the Victorian government led by Daniel Andrews.

This rally supported the targeted advertising campaign launched by the Australian Education Union (AEU) around Geelong, the second largest city in the state of Victoria, including billboards and newspaper advertisements.

“TAFE teachers are the bedrock of our education and training system,” said AEU Victoria President Meredith Peace. “They are passionate about making sure their students get the best possible training and employment outcomes.” The Andrews government wants to increase TAFE teachers’ class contact hours by almost 20 per cent.

Increased workload

“TAFE teachers are already stretched, working on average 6.8 hours of overtime per week,” Peace insisted. Nine out of 10 TAFE teachers say their administrative workload had increased over the last 12 months, according to AEU Victoria's 2017 State of our TAFEs survey.

Their work stress, due to “unsustainable levels of administration and compliance work”, means that “75 per cent of TAFE teachers have considered walking away from their job”, she added.

“Stretched to their limit”, TAFE teachers are already working excessive overtime, with less time to prepare lessons and provide students with the highest quality education and training. “When teachers miss out, students miss out too,” said Peace.

Youth missing out

And, with unemployment in Geelong currently at 10 per cent, the situation for young people will not improve if the Andrews government makes it increasingly difficult for TAFE teachers to provide students with the skills, training, and support they need to get a job, Peace added.

Reiterating that Daniel Andrews was elected because he promised to save TAFE, she underlined that “abandoning TAFE teachers and expecting them to agree to an enterprise deal that strips their working conditions is not saving TAFE and nor is it in the interests of students and the Victorian community”.

The full AEU Victoria's 2017 State of our TAFEs survey, released on 1 December 2017,  is available here