TAFE Illawarra staff feels budget axe

TAFE teachers say large staff budget cuts at Wollongong campuses could lead to welding, mining, manufacturing and arts classes being cancelled due to safety concerns.

Support staff at TAFE Illawarra were told this week that their working hours had been slashed dramatically while others were told they no longer had a job, according to the NSW Public Service Association.

These jobs are among the first to be lost through a major reduction in public service workers announced in last month's state budget.

Union industrial officer Blake Stephens estimated the Illawarra support staff budget had been cut by about 30-50 per cent based on the number of hours union members had lost.

Mr Stephens said up to 250 general assistants and technical officers working in areas like metal fabrication, welding, manufacturing and mining, fitting and machinery and the arts would be affected by the budget cuts.

He said these workers were responsible for ensuring student safety in class and doing vital machinery and equipment maintenance.

"Some teachers are so concerned about this they have been reporting to us that they will just not hold the class without a support person there, because it will not be safe," he said. "So some classes may have to be cut."

TAFE Illawarra relieving director Lucy Arundell said she was unable to comment on budget cuts, job losses or safety concerns yesterday but was liaising with the union.

"TAFE Illawarra regularly evaluates its business operations to support the delivery of training needs to meet the needs of the region," Ms Arundell said.

One Illawarra technical assistant, who did not wish to be identified because she was concerned about future employment, was told on Monday that there was not enough money in this year's budget to fund her previously full-time position.

'My contract was up at the end of last week and from what I'd been told, I thought I would be okay for at least a few more years, but then on Monday morning my campus manager phoned me ... and said there had been no hours allocated to me," she said.

"My campus manager was quite upset about it, because I'm very well-qualified for what I do, I'm a long-term [temporary staff member] and ... I was also the first aid officer for the section."

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