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TAFE Children Centres lever collective
Federation members teaching in TAFE Children Centres have demonstrated the value of working as a collective to achieve a range of employment and work health and safety protections for all staff members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 30 March, while TAFE teachers entered the COVID-19 “delivery pause” and ceased face-to-face teaching, Federation members in Children Centres continued to provide early childhood education and care to the children of TAFE students and the wider local community.
Of concern to our members in the 15 centres across NSW were the inconsistent communications and lack of consultation by TAFE management, around potentially unsafe working conditions in Children Centres due to Covid-19.
Adding to the COVID-19-related anxiety for our members was the declaration by the Prime Minister that childcare centres were safe for children to attend; yet the silence was deafening around the potential health impacts on staff working to provide these essential services.
A director of one of the TAFE Children Centres contacted the post-school section of Federation to voice concern and anger — concern over the risk to staff of contracting the virus, and anger that TAFE management had ignored staff work health and safety concerns.
Demonstrating the idiom “widely held, deeply felt and winnable”, the directors and teachers in all centres across NSW subsequently participated in a work health and safety campaign organised by Federation. Members developed a log of issues and actions to demand of TAFE management to ensure the health of children, their families and staff.
After several teleconferences with TAFE managers, the members’ demands of TAFE management had achieved agreement to take action on the five key areas identified:
- development of clear guidelines and a checklist for staff to use at child drop-off and pick-up, including information for parents/guardians, entry restrictions and temperature checks
- guidelines around a priority of access to Children Centre services — children of frontline, essential workers and children at risk
- consultation around increased and ongoing cleaning/sanitising of centres by cleaners, including consultation on the type of cleaning products used
- reducing/minimising risk of exposure to COVID-19 by working on modified social distancing in the centres and the utilisation of a rotating roster with working-from-home options
- finalising and setting in place consistent working-from-home arrangements in conjunction with the rotating roster, to assist in keeping long-term casuals in employment.
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