SOUTH West TAFE is hoping a “fearless” plan for the future will mean it won’t have to cut as many jobs as anticipated.
A meeting between Warrnambool mayor Jacinta Ermacora and state higher education minister Peter Hall last week yielded the suggestion of up to 70 more job cuts at the institute.
But South West TAFE board chairman Bill Hewett said the new “transition plan” would minimise staff losses and put the figure closer to 10.
“We will not cut 70 jobs from our institute as was reported earlier in the week,” Mr Hewett said.
“The protection of jobs and the institute’s professional skill base was key in the formulation of this transition plan.
“With natural attrition and less reliance on casual staff, we expect to lose less than 10 full-time staff from the institute next year.”
He described the plan as “fearless in its attempts to secure the long-term future of the institute and its staff”.
Mr Hewett said the board had attempted to minimise staff cuts by reducing costs in other areas and deciding to trade in deficit for two years. A severe decline in state government funding — $10.1 million less over the next two years — and higher fees led to South West TAFE cutting 31 courses and 43 full-time positions.
Fifteen of those were vacant positions that will not be filled, while 28 staff were let go through a mixture of voluntary and forced redundancies, retirements and contracts not being renewed.
Mr Hewett said if TAFE and the state government could negotiate a new partnership, the board expected the institute to “be back in the black by the end of 2015”.
“This will not be without its challenges, with the key risk being the uncertainty around the willingness of students and employers to pay increased fees for their education as a result of reduced subsidies,” he said.
“Despite the challenges, the organisation’s response will ensure the institute has a strong future and will remain a leader in providing quality education, training and support for people in the region.”
South West TAFE chief executive Joe Piper outlined the transition plan to staff last week.
“I told the staff that I admire the board’s strength,” Mr Piper said.
“This is a very courageous plan, a plan that backs our staff.”
“The board could have chosen to trade in the black for the next two years and cut a large number of staff, but it didn’t.
“This board knows that providing jobs for people at the institute will create a skilled workforce to support our region.”
The TAFE board will enter negotiations with the state government soon to secure the plan.
Meanwhile, state opposition higher education spokesman Steve Herbert called on the Baillieu government to publicly release the TAFE transition plans.
“The transition plans outline the details of all TAFEs in regards to how they will be able to operate following Mr Baillieu’s callous $290 million cuts,” Mr Herbert said in Parliament.
“They outline the large number of job losses, course cuts, campus closures, fee increases, and industrial issues forced on them by the Baillieu government’s budget cut. This is critical to public interest and communities have a right to know.”