THE New South Wales Teachers Federation says North Coast TAFE has lost 88 full-time teachers to funding cuts in the last two years and warns more job losses are on the way.
Organiser Kathy Nicholson expected the decaying Trenayr TAFE campus, north of Grafton, to be closed once-and-for-all if the Baird government was elected again in March.
However, she warned new NSWTF polling found voters were strongly opposed to TAFE cuts and privatisation, with 75% against cutbacks to public funding and 59% opposing the increase of funding to private training providers.
"The Trenayr campus has a fabulous, purpose-built equine facility that was completely closed and mothballed just this year," Ms Nicholson said.
"If the Baird government is restored with any strength, I would anticipate that we would see the loss of that facility.
"But our polling is telling us some very interesting things - 93% of respondents believe the government should maintain a strong TAFE sector in NSW ... and 17% of Coalition voters are less likely to vote for Baird because of TAFE cuts."
TAFE NSW North Coast institute director Elizabeth McGregor rejected the union's claim 88 full-time teaching jobs had been axed in the past two years.
"This is incorrect. Over the past two years North Coast TAFE has been undergoing business reviews and realignments," she said.
"As a result of these reviews, overall there has been a reduction of seven head teacher positions but the creation of two new full-time teacher positions."
But Ms Nicholson said the 88 jobs were just the tip of the iceberg, with about 70% of TAFE's teaching workforce - those on casual and short-term contracts - not included in the figure.
She said she had supported many North Coast TAFE teachers who had lost their jobs in the past two years.
"It has been devastating to see people with amazing skills ripped from the system," she said.
"Every one of those job cuts has a flow-on effect to country towns, pulling that income out of town and often pulling out entire families."
Ms McGregor said there were "no current plans" to close the Trenayr campus, but would not rule it out entirely.
"As with all TAFE campuses, viability depends on student demand for courses offered at the campus," she said.
"Any decision about the continued use of the campus will be made according to student demand for a TAFE campus in this location."
Member for the North Coast Duncan Gay was unavailable for comment.
Private training providers?
REPORTS of private training providers canvassing low socio-economic areas to sell education packages have made their way to NSW Teachers Federation organiser Kathy Nicholson's office.
"Private providers are doorknocking extremely disadvantaged North Coast communities, signing people up for debt," she said.
"The other day in Taree people with no literacy or numeracy skills, or even a computer in their home, signed up for online diploma courses with a private provider - which of course included VET Fee-Help and debt.
"The government says VET Fee-Help is like HECS, but it is nothing like it.
"The student pays 100% of the cost - it is not subsidised - and it has compounding interest."
NSW TEACHERS FEDERATION POLLING
Keeping a strong TAFE sector is important for NSW - 93% agree
Opposed to cutbacks in TAFE public funding - 75%
Opposed to increasing government funding to private training providers - 59%
Baird government's TAFE policies make Coalition less likely to receive respondent's vote - 59%
Coalition voters less likely to vote for Coalition because of TAFE policies - 17%