This might or might not be an election year, but it is increasingly clear that all the major parties are getting ready. One area where the Labor Party recently announced some policy is in the area of post secondary education.
If they are elected, a Labor government will set up a wide ranging, ‘once in a generation’ enquiry into all areas of post secondary education, including universities, TAFE and the private college sector.
The precise terms of the enquiry are yet to be finalised, but the ALP is pitching this as an opportunity to put TAFE on the same footing as universities and presumably put less emphasis on private providers.
The next federal election can be held from any time after early August, until mid May 2019, and Labor has stated that they would have this enquiry up and running in the first 100 days of any change of government.
Change the rules
Another area where there is likely to be some significant policy differences between the major parties is in the area of industrial relations. The ACTU has been running hard with a campaign to Change the Rules, arguing that the current industrial framework of the Fair Work Act is to skewed towards employers, making it hard for workers to get fair outcomes.
We have certainly seen this over and over in the post secondary sector, with a heavily casualised workforce often unable or unwilling to take action against their employers as a way of pushing for workplace improvements.
The ALP has made some encouraging noises in this area, though we are yet to see much in the way of detailed policy. To keep the pressure on the Opposition, you can get involved in the ACTU’s campaign – go to www.australianunions.org.au/change_the_rules.
Agreements and bargaining
Your Union continues to fight for improved outcomes for members across the post secondary sector, and bargaining has continued at many centres. Negotiations are close to finishing at Taylor’s Academic English Program (AEP), which seems likely to lead to some good improvements in both salary and conditions. Your Union has recently concluded negotiations at SELC and APC, which saw some good salary increases and other improvements in both centres.
In the coming months, the IEU will commence negotiations with Navitas English, home to over 70 IEU members. The IEU has been consulting with members and has put together a Log of Claims, which was presented to management in early March. The claims include improvements in salaries and many conditions and will hopefully lead to an improved agreement in the next few months.
Your Union will commence negotiations at several other colleges (including EF, SCE, Access, Embassy English, Kaplan, and UoW College) later in the year. The Fair Work Act contains provisions which can force employers to the negotiating table, with the eventual aim of creating an enterprise agreement – enterprise agreements typically contain better salaries and conditions that the award. To find out how this might work at your centre, contact the IEU.
International student boom
Notwithstanding that wages growth in Australia over the last few years has been rather flat, this might be a good time to bargain for improvements in post secondary colleges. New government figures are indicating that the numbers of international students coming to Australia has greatly increased in recent months.
Figures from the Federal Education Department show that there were nearly 190,000 applications from abroad for study in the second half of 2017, an increase of over 14% in the same period in 2016.
This suggests that there is some credence to early theories that the effect of Brexit and Trump (two phenomena heavily influenced by concerns about immigration and ‘foreigners’) might push potential applicants away from traditional powerhouses of the US and the UK, towards perceived ‘safe’ destinations, like Canada, New Zealand and Australia.