Final Report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce | 6 November 2012
Analysis presented to the Taskforce identified that the current employment model for TAFE teachers reflects the conditions of secondary teachers that existed when TAFE systems separated from secondary and technical school systems in the 1970s and 1980s. Since that time, major shifts have occurred in delivery models (e.g., online and mobile learning) and in the demands of learners and employers (e.g., delivery at a client’s factory floor or corporate office). These have impacted significantly on the expectations of the work undertaken by TAFE workforce.
A common finding of all recent reviews of TAFE Queensland is the need for institutes to have more flexibility in terms of staffing and industrial relations provisions to meet the increasingly diverse needs of VET sector clients.
The TAFE teachers’ award prescribes a 36.25 hour week, only 32 hours of which can be programmed for duties related to teaching delivery. Of the 32 programmable hours no more than 21 hours can be programmed in any one week for teaching. Typically, all teaching hours in excess of 21 hours incur additional overtime payments to teachers. An additional provision which contributes significantly to the low utilisation of TAFE facilities in the evening is that an hour of teaching after 6.00 pm is counted as 1.5 hours toward the weekly total of 21 hours – or else is paid at time and a half.
The TAFE teachers’ award also provides for five weeks of non-attendance time in addition to the four weeks of recreation leave. This non-attendance time is considered by some staff as additional leave. TAFE teachers only undertake scheduled work of 32 hours for 39 weeks a year, and less if overtime is worked.
In addition, class sizes are restricted to 14 students for trade delivery where workplace health and safety is high risk and 24 students for non-trades delivery. The use of casual/sessional teachers is restricted and measured against tenured staff.
Analysis provided to the Taskforce shows that the estimated financial disadvantage due to base salaries compared with the private sector is in the order of 15 per cent. This disadvantage is further compounded by the abovementioned restrictive terms and conditions in the current TAFE Queensland award that impact potential productivity by an estimated additional 30 per cent. This is due to penalty rates, restrictions on contact time per week (21 hours versus 30 hours or greater) and spread of hours, class size restrictions and mandatory non-attendance time in addition to non-contact time.
Consultations with TAFE Institute Directors and TAFE Council Chairs identified that provisions of the current Award are impacting on the ability to increase utilisation of facilities by way of allowable contact time and in particular utilisation outside the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm.
The overtime and spread of hours provisions of the Award may also potentially be linked to reducing levels of access and participation, which should be a key consideration of training providers.
The Taskforce recognises the professionalism of individual TAFE teachers and their commitment to students. Many teachers work hours well beyond those set out in the Award. However, advice to the Taskforce is that many TAFE teachers have accepted voluntary redundancies in recent years, with little replacement of these staff under current conditions. Instead, use of contract, sessional and casual staff is becoming more widespread. A clear concern is that the current employment model does not provide a sound basis for renewal of the TAFE workforce.
Recommendation 3.4: A new industrial arrangement for the TAFE workforce is essential in order to deliver gains in flexibility and productivity – as well as recognising the importance of sessional and casual staff to the TAFE workforce – to support the viability of TAFE Queensland.
Recommendation 3.5: The Government pursue a revamped industrial relations arrangement for the TAFE workforce that addresses, at a minimum, the following:
- the need for a wider spread of hours and contact time, including removal of the in-built systemic barriers to evening classes
- the current practice of non-attendance time becoming de facto additional annual leave
- implementation of industry competitive overtime arrangements
- the ability of management to have full discretion in engaging casual staff
- greater class size flexibility.