The Federal Government should abandon plans to force universities and TAFEs to adopt hardline employment policies that will drive down the wages and conditions of staff and lead to more casual jobs, bigger class sizes and a poorer quality of education for students.

Unions covering 60,000 university & TAFE staff today called on the Howard
Government to scrap its plan to tie extra public funding to hard line industrial
conditions ahead of tomorrow’s National Higher Education Protest (Weds. 1

On behalf of unions representing TAFE & university staff, ACTU
Secretary Greg Combet said:

“The Howard Government plan will undermine the basic rights of
university and TAFE staff and threatens to degrade the quality of
Australia’s education system.

The Government plans to cut public funding to universities by $280 million
and cut TAFE funding by $1.2 billion unless they adopt hard line workplace
relations policies that include offering all staff individual contracts with
inferior conditions and introducing more casual employment.

Thousands of long-serving education staff including porters, cleaners,
gardeners, teachers and lecturers face the prospect of being made a casual
worker and losing their job security.

Already, there are huge numbers of people working in our education system who
are effectively ‘laid off’ over the Christmas break period –
receiving no pay until the next teaching semester starts.

The Government’s changes are not about providing employees with greater
choice, they are about driving down pay and conditions and reducing job security
for large numbers of hard working people.

The new funding arrangements will give the Federal Education Minister the
ability to reach into our universities and TAFE system and dictate the details
of individual job contracts regardless of the fact that most staff and
management in these institutions want to negotiate collectively.

This is unwanted and unnecessary government interference that is driven by
ideology and will lead to more bureaucratic red tape, not less. The Government
plan threatens academic freedom, the independence of public universities and the
integrity of our TAFE system.

It does nothing to deal with the real problems facing universities and TAFEs
including higher student fees, bigger classes, reduced job security and a
decline in the quality of facilities.

The Government’s plan is a distraction from more important national
goals of boosting investment in research and lifting the number of places in
TAFE to help solve the national skills shortage.

Decent jobs for higher education workers will also mean a better education
system for our children and those of us seeking a university or TAFE
qualification. The Government’s plans are a dangerous step backwards for
staff and students.”

National Day of Protest for Higher Education – Weds. 1 June

Protest activities including rallies and public meetings will take place in
all major metropolitan and regional centres. Strike action will take place at
eight universities.
For more details, see media contacts below:

Media Contacts:

Greg Combet, ACTU: c/- Ian Wilson, ACTU Media Officer: 0408 513
David Carey, Fed. Secretary, SPSF Group, Community & Public
Sector Union: 0418233923. And Bernadette Keeffe, National Media Officer: 0437
370 008.
Dr Carolyn Allport, President, National Tertiary Education
Union: 0438 026277. And Andrew Nette, NTEU National Policy Coordinator: 0438 026
Pat Forward, Federal TAFE Secretary, Australian Education Union:
0425 743 954