More than 100 students, teachers and union activists heard union activists slam private-sector training at Thursday's protest against TAFE cuts at RMIT.
Steve Roach, CFMEU, Union Official (Heath and Safety Unit) was concerned that the decline of TAFE—and the subsequent privatisation of the construction industry—would lead to unsafe working conditions:
“We find dodgy tickets of competency floating around our industry...where all they [the students] did was give somebody $140 and they come back in with a card the next day.”
Melissa Slee, NTEU Branch President, told the crowd that the smaller programs would disappear because private providers “cherry pick the most profitable programs...that are cheaper to run.”
Layal Saker, an RMIT-TAFE product design teacher, agreed. “We are a unique TAFE course, we're Victoria's only product design course...if we disappeared, our students would have very limited options.” She cites personalised learning as a strong point for her program. Her students, sitting around her at the protest, nod in agreement.
The rally, jointly organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Victorian Division and the Australian Education Union (AEU), was part of a Victoria-wide campaign to stop nearly $300 million in budget cuts across 18 TAFE institutes.
A recent NTEU statement explained that RMIT could lose $20 million of its public funding. RMIT started as a workingman's college.
Colin Long, NTEU Vic Div Secretary, told the crowd that cuts not only hurt the quality of education in Victoria but also were a “direct attack on affordable education”.
“What will matter next year is how much money we've got to pay for the fees,” said Nick Wurlod, a student speaker.
Protesters such as Alex Nixon were also concerned about the impact of TAFE cuts on country Victoria, where there is “less access to education”. In many rural areas, TAFE cuts would kill local access to tertiary education.
Greg Barclay, AEU deputy vice president, noted a lot of support in rural communities. “We've basically taken this campaign through regional Victoria--from Mildura to Wodonga to Warrnambool to Bairnsdale and all points in between—and we've been amazed at the amount of community anger.”
Thursday’s rally was the fourth in a series of protests against the TAFE cuts being organised across Melbourne, culminating in a mass rally on Thursday, August 16 at the State Library.
Squirrel Main (sqmain.blogspot.com)