TAFE SA PSA Update | COVID-19 and Multiple Restructure Dispute

07 April 2020

Your Public Service Association (PSA) Organiser and your PSA Worksite Representatives (WSRs) continue to support and advocate for TAFE SA PSA members in a number of areas. This Information Update contains the latest information on those matters.

Since the last PSA Information Update on 24 March 2020, TAFE SA arranged a Consultative Forum specifically about COVID-19 which was held on 2 April 2020. While members are aware of some progress by TAFE SA from the regular communications being released to staff, members still had some issues that the PSA was able to raise and seek clarity on.

  • Working from home
    The PSA advised TAFE SA that some members had completed all required forms to apply to work from home but were reporting little response or progress with their application. The Acting Director of People and Culture advised that if staff have not received a response; or if they have and their request has been declined without a satisfactory reason, that they should escalate the matter to their Human Resources Business Partner.
  • Vulnerable staff/those living with vulnerable people
    Members who fall into the vulnerable staff category, or live with someone in that category (as defined by the Federal Government and reiterated by TAFE SA in the TAFECOM issued on 1 April 2020) are encouraged to apply to work from home. The same escalation applies as noted above. The PSA advised TAFE SA that it would expect that people in those categories are prioritised to work from home.
  • Closure of schools/non-availability of many vacation care providers
    The PSA is aware that many members are working through their options in terms of school closures. In addition, while some vacation care providers are remaining open so that essential workers can have their children cared for (with TAFE SA advising that they have been classed as an essential service), many providers have indicated that they will be closing. The PSA has written to the Commissioner for Pubic Sector Employment to seek clarity regarding the applicable leave for those staff, and TAFE SA advises that they have written to the Commissioner as well. Members are encouraged to discuss their options now with managers, which may include working from home or leave.

TAFE SA’s position appears unchanged about continuing with restructures despite the current health emergency. The PSA continues to assert that the current nine restructures should be put on hold during this period. The most recent communication to TAFE SA and the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) Industrial Relations on 3 April 2020 advised that the PSA’s concerns have heightened even further regarding the ability for employees to engage in genuine consultation due to a number of factors:

  •  More employees will be working from home.
  •  Many staff have leave booked for the Easter/school holiday period.
  •  Schools are closed this week, with school holidays for two weeks after that. While some out of school hours care/vacation care providers are remaining open for the children of essential workers, our members across the public sector report that many are not opening at all. This will mean more staff needing to take leave to care for their children.
  •  While schools may open for Term 2 for essential workers, some staff will quite understandably choose to home school their child.
  •  Those staff who are working are concentrating on the priority of assisting in the preparation for Term 2 TAFE SA alternative course delivery. The TAFECOM from the Executive Director, Educational Operations on 31 March 2020 stated “there will be further support available to all education areas from Teaching and Learning, Digital Education Unit, Centre for Educator Practice, ICT, Quality and Libraries. We are all in this together and as a result, we may need to bring in other workgroups from across the organisation to ensure the education teams are ready for digital delivery on the 27 April 2020.” This statement names some areas currently under restructure. In addition to those groups, areas such as Global Engagement/International will need to assist those international students, and Procurement and Finance are also focused on this preparation.

The PSA advised that because of all the above, staff need to focus on not just their everyday essential business, but also the current priorities. This will also lead into Term 2 to ensure that everything is as it should be and supporting students in their alternative learning and other related enquiries, as well as staff having their own personal circumstances to consider. This will mean that the ability for staff to participate in considered and genuine consultation will be extremely limited.

The PSA is yet to receive any further response from TAFE SA or DTF Industrial Relations.

  • Filling of Vacancies – Student Experience and Facilities Restructures
    As reported in the last Information Update on 24 March 2020, the PSA and members were concerned that despite timelines being given, the large majority of vacancies had not been advertised and were not being filled in the interim by term contract or casual staff. TAFE SA says this has now progressed, with more roles appearing on the I Work for SA website and contracts extended, other contracts offered, or casuals engaged. If you are within the Student Experience or Facilties restructures and your area still has vacancies that have not been advertised and/or filled temporarily while recruitment is occurring please let your PSA Worksite Representative or PSA Organiser Rosie Ratcliff know.
  • Workload Assessments
    TAFE SA’s response to the PSA and members’ feedback is still to be provided. The PSA hopes that this is due to TAFE SA and DTF Industrial Relations considering the PSA’s concerns as noted above. The PSA will update members as soon as a response is provided by TAFE SA.

The PSA will keep members updated about the above issues.