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TAFE staff stop work to protest cutback "chaos"

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Adelaide TAFE admin workers held stopwork action today as the public sector union rails against “sudden and drastic restructures” it argues are “creating chaos” within the vocational education provider, “compromising course delivery, leaving students in limbo and staff overwhelmed”.

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The troubled TAFE SA has been a headache for the State Government, which has injected new funding into the skills provider in successive budgets, as it seeks to recover from a 2017 scandal under the previous Labor administration that saw the Australian Skills Quality Authority suspend enrolments in several courses after a failed audit.

However, the extra funding has been coupled with savings targets that staff claim have led to merged and cancelled classes, goods and services spending cuts and staff benefits frozen.

The Public Service Association – which represents around 300 administration staff, around 30 of whom attended today’s stopwork meeting at the Adelaide campus – said today TAFE management has initiated 10 separate restructures “in order to make an immediate $15 million budget cut as part of a total of $45 million in cuts”.

“Proper consultation processes have been disregarded, leading the PSA to lodge disputes in the South Australian Employment Tribunal,” the union said in a media statement today.

“Classes are being cancelled, calls and emails unanswered and student information desks left unstaffed or shortstaffed, leaving students and employers disillusioned and angry.”

The union says around 85 full-time positions have been axed in the last ten months “and another 45 FTEs identified to go before the end of the financial year”, leaving “unmanageable workloads as a result of vacancies not being filled”.

Assistant General Secretary Natasha Brown said the Marshall Government “promised to reinvigorate TAFE, but what we’re seeing now is the complete undermining of the public Vocational Education and Training provider”.

“There is absolutely no rationale for these cuts,” she said in a statement.

“TAFE has been running on minimum staffing for years, so to cut staff further is just a cynical move to make unjustified budget savings to frontline services.”

She said the cuts were “creating chaos”.

“Students are turning up for classes that have been cancelled because there are no admin staff to let them know,” she said.

“Staff are consistently having to deal with confused and frustrated students who can’t get the information they need as a result of the job cuts.”

Education Minister John Gardner said in a statement TAFE SA “has had more support to get on track from the current government than it ever had from the previous government, who oversaw the catastrophic quality crisis in 2017”.

“We have injected new leadership, stronger governance and substantial new funding of well over $100 million into the organisation to enable its recovery,” the minister said.

“However TAFE SA still has a responsibility to operate efficiently and focus on what is needed by South Australian students and workers looking for skills to support their careers, and businesses and industry seeking a skilled workforce.”

It comes just days after Gardner lauded the expansion of TAFE’s new Multi-Trades Program from two to four sites this year.

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