TAFE anger: 'Warrnambool-centric' board under fire over new cuts

COMMUNITY backlash has prompted moves for an urgent review by the South West TAFE board into the axing of management positions at Hamilton and Portland campuses.

The two job cuts were undertaken by the Warrnambool-based executive team this month without the knowledge of some board members, who had met only the night before.

Councils, employers and community members have sent letters and emails of complaint, saying they did not want a Warrnambool-centralised management.

Complaints were also relayed to South West Coast MP Denis Napthine, who has decided to let TAFE sort it out.

Board chairman Bill Hewett, of Warrnambool, told The Standard yesterday it had been an unfortunate oversight not to inform his team of the impending redundancies, which were the last in a series forced by savage state funding cuts. 

“I can understand complaints coming in from people who see their role in protecting their campuses,” Mr Hewett said.

“We are likely to hold a board meeting in mid-January on our constitution and I’m including discussion of the Hamilton and Portland issues in our agenda. Yes, the redundancies were a surprise to some of our board members — it was a communications oversight.

“I must admit I’d been given some indication earlier, but didn’t take it in and was not aware it was so imminent.”

Board member and Hamilton campus advisory committee chairman Greg Walcott said  the retrenchments were a shock to him, considering the positions were included in a budget tabled at the board meeting.

“I have been surprised at the level of community anger — it’s very strong and quite unanimous,” he said.

“One  of the big concerns is Warrnambool-centric management.”

Glenelg Shire Council  voted on Tuesday night to call for the redundancies to be put on hold until the new TAFE chief executive Peter Heilbuth and the board have time to reconsider the decision.

“There were strong feelings by all councillors on this issue and it was a unanimous decision to protest as hard as we could,” mayor Karen Stephens said.

“Glenelg Shire has the state’s lowest year 12 retention rate and it’s crucial we continue to have a strong TAFE.”

Mr Hewett said Portland and Hamilton communities needed to understand they had been largely shielded from earlier cuts concentrated in Warrnambool.

“All of the previous redundancies and program cuts were in Warrnambool,”  he said.

“There is no intention of winding back the Hamilton and Portland operations. We’ve fought hard to retain them.

“Our executive team has done a herculean effort in the face of government cuts to get us to a positive future.”

He said tasks done by the campus managers would be allocated to other staff and overall co-ordination would remain in Warrnambool.

Mr Hewett said it was imperative South West TAFE continued to operate strongly as it was the region’s only training provider in some skill sectors.

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