Education unions have warned a tertiary sector amalgamation could impact jobs and course delivery in the local community.
Following the decision to merge Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE into Federation Training in May 2014, National Tertiary Education Union representative Sharon Spears said the union was concerned about future decisions to join the organisations and the implied cost savings of mergers.
“The true costs and benefits to the community are yet to be identified in the detail,” Ms Spears said
Potential job losses will not be known until the appointment of board members and a new executive team for Federation Training.
It is also unclear which courses will be offered or if any of the TAFE’s 14 Gippsland campuses will close.
Ms Spears said the union would condemn any further job losses for staff and reduced services for students due to redundancies of support staff on local campuses.
“Accessible, affordable and relevant higher education is needed in regional areas. The NTEU will continue to consult with management on the merger, how it affects our students and staff, and how we can achieve the best outcome for all,” she said.
Australian Education Union Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray said while the TAFE sector claimed the merger would be a positive outcome, there was almost no way this would have happened if the TAFEs were on a stronger financial footing.
Mr Gray said both GippsTAFE and Advance TAFE had significant budget deficits in the order of $4 or $5 million and were driven by necessity to gain more solid financial funding.
“It’s because they’ve been left with no alternative but to go into some other merger; the State Government has done this to them,” he said.
Mr Gray said Premier Denis Napthine denied there would be TAFE mergers and if things did not change, further mergers and closures could be seen across the state.
“We’re concerned that the whole ethos of TAFE may be lost, providing that whole range of training options, rather than just focusing on what would be more profitable for higher education,” he said.
Higher Education and Skills Minister Nick Wakeling said it was the TAFE institutions’ choice to do what was in their best interest.
Mr Wakeling said the two TAFEs and FedUni decided Federation Training was going to provide a “great opportunity” for Gippslanders to study in their region.