AEU members and local communities are fighting back against cuts to the TAFE system.
The Victorian government’s commitment to free market economics is decimating the TAFE system in the state, says Greg Barclay, vice president of the TAP (TAFE and Adult Provision) sector, AEU Victoria.
“These are the worst attacks on the TAFE system in Victoria in its 155-year history and members are in shock, denial and despair. Courses students have relied on for decades, which are sustainable for local communities, are being trashed and teachers’ jobs and livelihoods are gone,” he says.
Regional areas are taking the brunt of cuts as TAFE CEOs desperately try to keep staff as long as they can because “once they lose them they lose that capacity to support local communities for decades to come”.
In East Gippsland alone, eight outreach campuses will be closed and Barclay is outraged that this is occuring at a time when businesses are crying out for skilled workers. Cuts have also affected support staff.
“Auslan interpreters for hearingimpaired students have been cut already and students are desperate to know how the hell they can finish their courses,” says Barclay.
He’s angry that TAFE is being blamed for cuts that will range from 22 to 40 per cent of a TAFE’s total budget. “We’re hearing people like Simon Ramsay [a Liberal MP from Western Victoria] perpetuate lies that TAFE caused the blowout, when it was actually the unregulated, unmonitored expansion of the private-for-profit sector. “And the rorts will continue as long as this government keeps paying them for training that’s not actually delivered.”
A recent field survey of members by AEU Victoria asked if they’re noticing a decline in enrolments and Barclay says they’re starting to collapse, and that’s before students turn up on the 1st of July and notice new course fees.
“Victoria needs TAFE because of its courses in trades and para-professional areas, which aren’t attractive to private providers because high infrastructure costs and rigorous regulation means they can’t make a profit,” says Barclay.
“We’re disappointed that employers aren’t outraged and arguing for maintenance of standards so private providers can’t just cherry pick things they can deliver out of the back of their car,” he says. AEU Victoria is engaged in a sustained campaign against the cuts, with the support of local communities and allied unions.
“Eighteen local government authorities across Victoria have passed motions condemning the cuts, and asking Premier Baillieu or higher education minister Peter Hall to come and explain what they’re doing to their local TAFEs,” says Barclay. More than 650 media articles have also been generated since 10 May, and the TAFE4All website has an e-lobby function that has allowed members to deliver around 23,000 letters to local politicians. Meanwhile, rallies are continuing throughout term three, culminating in a march on Parliament House on August 16.
“With momentum building across the state, we’re expecting a great turnout to let the government know that, even if they don’t care about TAFE, the Victorian community does and they won’t put up with these attacks,” says Barclay.