It’s no secret that the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program has been a lifeline for the private post-secondary college sector, which will remain in crisis until the borders start to re-open. There is great uncertainty as the program comes to an end.
Your union has written to the Federal Government calling on additional support for those colleges heavily dependent on international students. Ideally, we would like to see a continuation of the JobKeeper arrangements for targeted industries, like ELICOS, though frankly any sort of assistance would help.
Industry bodies like English Australia are also lobbying hard for some assistance, and hopefully something can be put in place to see the industry through until students start to arrive in numbers again. Members should be contacting local MPs to push the same message.
Australia’s borders slammed shut a year ago and they have remained closed tight ever since, with no easing of these restrictions likely until June at the earliest. However, with vaccines now being rolled out in Australia and around the world, there is growing hope that students may start to return later in the year.
Some governments are pushing for students to arrive earlier than that. The NSW Government has been seeking to have some students exempted from border restrictions, and in March NSW, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet floated the idea of quarantining international students in Hobart. This plan was downplayed by the Tasmanian Government, but it does have has some support from the Labor opposition, so it may yet come to fruition.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has sought to steal a marchon their trans-Tasman cousins by cautiously re-openingto a small number of international students (around 1000) in April.
While the closed borders have been a significant factor in the comparatively good pandemic outcomes in Australia and New Zealand, we will need to open up again before too long, particularly to international students – if they don’t come here this year, they will likely turn their backs on Australia and study elsewhere.
Despite the doom and gloom, your union continues to conduct business for members, not least enterprise bargaining. The IEU has been bargaining alongside our sister unions the NTEU and the CPSU at WSU the College since early 2020. These negotiations were impacted by the lockdowns, but we have been meeting regularly since the winter, and we should have an agreement nutted out for members to vote on in the next few months.
Meanwhile, at Navitas English, your union has agreed to hold off bargaining this year (the agreements in both NSW and ACT expire in June), and to take part in a working party, which will conduct a root and branch review of the government programs (AMEP, SEE) conducted by Navitas, and how they might be delivered in the future. Members are encouraged to get involved in the working party. In the meantime, Navitas has agreed to flow through a salary increase equivalent to the Wages Price Index after 1 July.
IEU membership in the sector has remained buoyant in the face of the pandemic. Overall membership in the private post-secondary sector has declined by about 15% over the last 12 months, but given the carnage in the industry, it could easily have been much worse.
This just goes to show that IEU members value their union membership, and have found it useful during this difficult time. Encourage your colleagues to join with you in the union for private post-secondary colleges, the IEU – they can join over the phone (8202 8900), via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or online (www.ieu.asn.au/join-page). There are many broader benefits to IEU membership (www.ieu.asn.au/member-benefits), and union fees are tax deductible.