NSW TAFE teachers walk out over savage attack on conditions

TAFE Teachers across NSW have walked off the job in protest at the combined attack on their working conditions from the NSW government and the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
As the NSW Teachers Federation put it, “TAFE teachers have rejected the draconian decision of the Industrial Relations Commission with its overtones of “Workchoices” to increase their working hours, both for teaching and attendance, to remove weekly limits on teaching, to annualise teaching loads, to remove professional development and to change long service leave entitlements…teachers feel utterly betrayed by the NSW Labor Government and the IRC.”
The IRC decision means TAFE teachers face an extra five hours of required attendance time each week, as well as making working hours “flexible” across a whole year. 
TAFE teachers have shown a willingness to carry on the struggle with rallies outside local MP’s offices as well as the electoral office of NSW Education Minister Verity Firth.
Statewide meetings of TAFE teachers will be held to discuss further action.
However, the Federation leadership’s strategy relies on a technical legal challenge.
This is symptomatic of the entire salaries and staffing campaign. Initially united across schools, TAFE, prisons and adult education, the campaign did see joint industrial action such as a one-day strike and rally of 3000 teachers.
Federation should have called follow-up rallies of all members outside the disgraced NSW Labor-led parliament, plus mass union action against the 2.5 per cent public sector pay cap and the privatisation of electricity generators and prisons.
The Labor government is weak, having lost its Premier, Deputy and Treasurer last year. But Unions NSW and its affiliated unions have failed to recognise the strength possible though united union action.
The best of last year’s pay deals went to the train drivers (4 per cent per annum for four years, with NO trade offs) after they threatened to disrupt transport during World Youth Day events.
The TAFE dispute will need similarly disruptive industrial action rather than deference to the trade-offs inevitable in any IRC hearing.
By John Morris


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