Western Melbourne Institute of TAFE (WMIT) has an appalling track record in the way it treats workers employed on fixed-term contracts. A favoured management tactic to prevent workers from being eligible to certain entitlements is to place breaks between the end of one contract and the start of the next.
Members of both the Australian Education Union and the National Tertiary Education Union are fed up and fighting back.
Last year the unions established a joint working party to campaign against breaks in contracts. A priority of the working party is to publicise the way the Institute treats workers. This strategy has achieved excellent press coverage throughout Melbourne’s western suburbs.
A year of active campaigning culminated on 20 November with a union-sponsored Christmas barbecue to protest the effective stand-down without pay of contract teacher members over the Christmas period. Union activists highlighted the hardship caused by this practice by presenting contract teacher members with food hampers.
The campaign is hitting WMIT management hard. The Institute clearly hates bad publicity and will do all it can to hide its unfair practices from the community. The unions invited three local members of parliament – Bruce Mildenhall, Ian Baker and Mary Gillet – to attend the seasonal sausage and veggie burger sizzle and speak to staff.
WMIT management had other ideas, and banned the politicians from setting foot on campus! The result? Unionists were forced to gather on the footpath outside the premises in order to hear messages of support for the campaign from their elected representatives. This occurred in full public view, in the middle of busy Footscray! Full marks to WMIT workers for exposing unfair and discriminatory employment practices and for refusing to be intimidated.