Welcome back to another year of Present Tense, your window into the world of ELICOS and the post secondary education sector. This industry is quite varied, taking in English schools, business colleges, and vocational centres (VET), each with their own particular issues to confront.
The IEU has been involved in the industry since helping to create the first industrial award regulating working conditions for ELICOS colleges in the 1990s, and your Union continues to be a key player in improving standards across the sector. IEU membership in the area has been steadily improving over recent years, but there is always room for more. Please encourage your colleagues to join their Union, the IEU.
New AMEP contracts
Over the summer, the Union has become aware of some significant changes that appear to be in prospect for the new round of AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) contracts offered by the Federal Government.
Of great concern to members, and their Union, is a possible diminution of teaching qualifications required. The new programs (which will start in July) will apparently have two streams, a ‘work’ stream, and a ‘social’ stream. It has been suggested by members that the social stream may require fewer teaching qualifications, while the work stream may require “industry experience” to teach.
A leading professional organisation in the sector, the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) is greatly concerned about the proposal to institute conversation classes, seemingly to be run by teachers with lesser qualifications than is currently the case. ACTA has grave concerns that this new stream will lead to inferior outcomes for students, about a third of whom are refugees.
If these fears are realised, it may be that the program may be downgrading the value of qualified teachers. Some members teaching on the current program have commented that teachers’ “current skills will be completely ignored and devalued”, that the government is “trying to de professionalise the industry”, and that “our careers are being devalued”.
The IEU shares these concerns, and IEUA Secretary, Chris Watt, has reiterated the Union’s general position, which is that educational courses should have guaranteed funding so as to ensure secure employment; that funding should be transparent, so that it is clear that the money is being spent for educational purposes; and that educational courses be taught by duly qualified practitioners.
The IEU sought comment from Navitas English, one of the largest providers in the sector, and their view is that these concerns are overblown. They acknowledged that the CSWE (Certificate of Spoken & Written English) is no longer compulsory for teachers, but noted that all the courses still require an accredited curriculum. The IEU will be meeting more formally with Navitas in the near future, and will give feedback to members accordingly. There will be a further update in the next edition.
The contracts are due to be awarded in the next few months, and the proof will in the end be in the pudding.
2016 was a busy year for agreement making, and many of these are now with the Fair Work Commission awaiting approval. Over Christmas, the agreement for WSU The College was approved. The new agreement provides for salary increases of 2.5% per annum, and a further 0.5% per annum increase in superannuation, along with several other improvements. Agreements for Mission Australia and Universal English College should also be approved in the near future.
Your Union is currently negotiating agreements with Navitas English Services (NES), Navitas English ACT, and Embassy English and is pursuing negotiations with Sydney English Language Centre (SELC) and Australian Pacific College (APC).
The Fair Work Act contains provisions for ‘good faith bargaining’, under which an employer can be compelled to commence bargaining where it can be demonstrated that the employees (or group of employees, such as teachers) wish for that to happen. To find out more about how that can work at your centre, contact the IEU on firstname.lastname@example.org.