‘Bleak’ future ahead

NUMEROUS GippsTAFE teachers are expected to receive their “tap on the shoulder” with the first stage of a large-scale redundancy roll out to begin in the next fortnight.

At least 10 teachers across Yallourn, Morwell and Traralgon are expected to be notified in the coming days, with future targeted departure stages expected to occur at the end of the 2012 school year and before the beginning of classes in 2013.

One Morwell campus teacher, who requested his name be withheld to avoid impact on his employment future at GippsTAFE, described the atmosphere of ongoing uncertainty among teaching staff as “morgue-like”.

Teaching staff across the campuses were told the news in a series of campus forums attended by GippsTAFE chief executive Peter Whitley this week.

The Express understands it was the first formal indication the general teaching staff had received as to how GippsTAFE planned to shoulder its share of $300 million in State Government funding cuts to the Victorian TAFE sector, since the shock confirmation in the May budget.

The Morwell teacher said until now, many teachers had relied on second hand information for updates on the impending fate of their positions and their respective departments.

The teacher said it was likely a range of certificate and diploma courses would be cut from various departments, including music, business administration, hospitality, and sport and recreation.

“Everyone’s completely on edge here; it’s like a lucky dip waiting to find out whether you are going to get a job or not… it’s pretty huge what’s going on,” he said.

The teacher, who said he feared he only had about three weeks left of his TAFE career, said Mr Whitley told teachers in the campus forums he was unsure how the institution was going to survive the coming school year.

“The whole focus is just surviving 2013; beyond that is not even being looked at at the moment, and it is virtually impossible to look beyond that – especially while this government is in power,” the teacher said.

“Everyone at the moment, from management to teaching, is trying to think outside the box as to how we can prove why (our respective departments) should survive; there’s some desperate measures being taken here – it’s pretty huge what’s going on.”

A separate GippsTAFE source further illustrated the seriousness of the volatile financial situation, stating while GippsTAFE needed to target up to 70 positions before 2013 classes began, it was unable to afford that amount of separation package pay outs.

They said this meant GippsTAFE would be forced to hold onto workers it could not afford, likening it to a “go broke overnight or go broke slowly” situation. 

With the scrapping of concessional course fees earlier this year, and some course costs tipped to skyrocket in 2013 – a Diploma of Nursing is set to rise in excess of $8000 in 2013, from $1500 in 2011 – there are fears enrolment rates will slide, putting further pressure on the institution’s bottom line, likely to force further redundancies. 

GippsTAFE Australian Education Union sub-branch president Phil Smith said while concrete information was “extremely light within the organisation”, he had been able to anecdotally confirm the information provided to The Express.

“It’s pretty bleak here; there really are still a lot of unknowns for most of us at the moment,” Mr Smith said. 

He said up to 40 GippsTAFE staff had been made redundant since the May State Budget announcement.

Attempts to phone GippsTAFE and Mr Whitley over the issue have been unsuccessful.

Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall did not respond by time of publication.