Present Tense

As reported in the last edition of this column, in mid April the Federal Government made its long awaited announcement of new contracts for the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program. The new arrangements will see TAFE pick up a large amount of new contracts, while long standing providers like Navitas have lost out.

Navitas English employ well over a hundred IEU members, so these changes have had a significant effect, and the Union has been busy visiting centres, keeping members informed, and lobbying Navitas for improved arrangements.

In the first half of May, officers from the Union visited all 11 Navitas English centres in Sydney to meet with members and talk through the changes that will come after June, discussing both entitlements and the process.

Ongoing staff whose positions will be made redundant will be entitled to redundancy pay, in line with the redundancy provisos of the Navitas enterprise agreement. In addition, ongoing and fixed term members were advised that they are also entitled to be paid out for accrued (but unused) annual leave, and all employees are entitled to a pro rata payment for long service leave, provided that they have completed at least five years of continuous service.

The discussion then turned to the process that Navitas would follow. Ongoing staff were asked to put in expressions of interest for voluntary redundancy, and all those that applied will be granted this. The remaining ongoing staff were then asked to attend a selection day on 19 May to finalise where they may be redeployed to after the new arrangements take effect in July.

Once the ongoing staff members have been organised, Navitas then intend to place the existing fixed term and casual employees where appropriate. Existing employees on these contracts have already been asked to put in expressions of interest in working past July, and these arrangements should become clearer around mid June.

Many individual members have put forward their own concerns, and IEU has taken these up with Navitas as required.

The whole process is by necessity somewhat rushed (nothing could be done before the government made its official announcement on 18 April), and redundancies on this scale are never of course easy or pleasant. Members are to be congratulated then, on the professional way they have approached difficult circumstances.

If you have any queries about how these changes might effect you, contact your Union, the IEU.

Agreements update

Negotiations are continuing at several colleges. At Navitas English Services (a different section of Navitas to that referred to above), the agreement has been voted on and approved by staff, and was lodged in late May. The Fair Work Commission typically take four to six weeks to approved agreements, so this should be approved in mid late July.

Negotiations are nearing completion at Navitas English in the ACT (one contract that NE was successful in retaining). The outline of the settlement is now becoming clear, with just some fine detail tuning to be worked through. Members may have an agreement to vote on by late June.

At Embassy English, an agreement in principle was reached some weeks ago, but there have been some delays in drafting, ahead of the agreement being put to staff for a vote. This should be finalised in the near future, and voting should take place in June.

Negotiations have just commenced at Australian Pacific College (APC), and the two sides have put forward their preliminary positions. APC had indicated a reluctance to commence bargaining at all, and it was only through pressure from members and their Union that they were made to do so. To their credit though, the College has engaged with the process, and both parties are hopeful that an agreed position can be put to staff in the next couple of months.

Minimum wage case
Members may be aware that the annual minimum wage case is now underway. This decision is important, as the minimum wage decision typically flows through to all awards, including the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award, the award that applies at all private colleges that have no enterprise agreement.
The ACTU has put forward a claim for a large rise in the minimum wage, of $45 per week, arguing that minimum wages have not kept pace in recent years, making the gap between the low paid and others grow rapidly. IEU supports this claim, and while the full claim is unlikely to be awarded, it will hopefully lead to a decent increase.
The decision will be handed down in June, with the new rates to take effect from 1 July.
For further information contact
Kendall Warren