Present tense: Promise of a new government

There’s a new sheriff in town after the election of the Albanese Labor government in May. The new government (which, importantly, has the added benefit of broadly progressive majorities in both Houses of Parliament) promises to bring many benefits to IEU members in the post-secondary education sector.

On education, the Albanese government has promised a big increase in funding for the TAFE sector. Given that TAFE has been systematically neglected under conservative governments at both state and federal level, this is a welcome development, and while TAFE is not normally IEU territory, any improvements to TAFE should spill over into private providers that wish to compete.

Labor has been careful to keep its refugee policy similar to that of the previous government (sadly), but one substantive difference is that Labor will look to double Australia's overall refugee intake to 27,000. This big increase will provide work for IEU members at education providers focusing on English and education programs for migrants.

Industrial relations has long been a significant point of difference between the two major parties. Labor policy is to improve elements of the Fair Work Act in bargaining, equal pay for women, protection for workers in the gig economy and those in insecure work, as well as other reforms.

The IEU’s view is that these proposed changes do not go far enough, but we are hopeful that the progressive hue of the new Parliament may encourage the government to move further forward.

Legal developments

In May, the Fair Work Commission finally handed down a long-awaited decision around family and domestic violence (FDV) leave, and it’s good news for workers. The FWC has announced it intends to include 10 days of paid FDV leave, and given that Labor has long committed to include FDV leave in the National Employment Standards, it is now set to be a standard entitlement for all workers.

Meanwhile, the one substantive industrial reform of the previous government appears to be a damp squib. The Morrison government had legislated to enshrine a right of long term, casual workers to apply to become permanent. However, in a high-profile test case, one such casual worker has had his application knocked back.

Toby Priest has been employed at Flinders University as a casual for 16 years, but the Commission refusedhis application to be made permanent on the basisthat it would cost his employer too much.

As with many things with the Morrison government, the reality has proved to be considerably less impressive that the announcement!

Agreements update

The pandemic hit the post-secondary education sector particularly hard, but with borders now open again, we are starting to see a slow return to normality. International students are beginning to reappear on our streets and, more importantly, in the classroom – this has encouraged the higher-end colleges to recommence bargaining in recent months.

At UTS College, the IEU and the college have agreed to terms for a new agreement that will provide pay rises of 2.5% in both 2022 and 2023 which, considering the college ran a ballot to abolish the final increase of the last agreement (the ballot wasn’t successful), is a fantastic result. Meanwhile, WSU The College looks likely to settle with pay rises averaging 2.5% over five years, and bargaining continues at UoW College.

On the other hand, EF Language Centre has been attempting to get its own agreement terminated by the Fair Work Commission. The IEU has opposed this every step of the way, though such is the nature of these things under the Fair Work Act, the college may end up being successful.

Keep in mind that enterprise agreements nearly always provide for superior pay and conditions to the award. If your college makes any attempr to terminate your agreement, please let us know.

Kendall Warren