Deakin University’s vice-chancellor has flagged with staff that hundreds of positions will be slashed as the university maps out the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a town hall meeting, Iain Martin said the institution would not sign up to the National Tertiary Education Union’s job protection framework and instead was looking at 300 redundancies and cutting 100 vacant positions.
Martin said the union's framework would constrain Deakin’s ability to decide what's in the best short, medium, and longer-term interests.
"Our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to be a V-shaped one,” he added. “The approach we are proposing, combining debt and cost savings, will ensure that Deakin is in the best position to preserve as many jobs as possible in the medium term, rather than simply seeking to get to a notionally balanced budget over the next 12 months.
"We have an Enterprise Agreement that underpins the vast majority of employment contracts at Deakin, and we see no need to change this to enact measures included in the Framework such as stand-downs, forced leave, forced reduction of hours, across the board pay cuts of up to 15 per cent and deferral of incremental progression that we have no desire to implement."
Deakin expects its operating revenue to fall by between $250 and $300 million in 2021.
Martin said: "As a University, we spend 55 per cent of our total revenue on staff. While we will do everything possible to minimise staff impacts, we must look at our employment costs as well as continuing to minimise other expenditure to adjust to where we need to be.”
Deakin’s NTEU vice-president Steve Davis said the university’s workers were “collateral damage” in efforts to meet a balanced budget.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that the university has chosen to sack people like this,” Davis said.
The union's national office said the move could have been prevented if Minister for Education Dan Tehan made JobKeeper available to university workers.
President Dr Alison Barnes said: “The Government found $60 billion behind the couch on Friday and on Monday more than 300 people are going to be out of work.”
Deakin said it would have a staged approach to staff reductions.
"I acknowledge again that managing 2020 and the next two to three years is about far more than money, but without a solid and sustainable financial position we will not be able to make the impact generating contributions that will be needed across our communities," said Martin.
Deakin is not alone in its decision to sidestep the union’s deal. At least 17 universities have turned it down, including the University of Wollongong.
Explaining his decision, UOW vice-chancellor Professor Paul Wellings echoed some of Martin’s points, telling staff that it “does not offer the best pathway to confront the challenges we must deal with to prepare UOW for a sustainable future”.
“The proposed national framework offers some important short-term reductions in pay and conditions for staff to help address the adverse financial impacts of the pandemic,” Wellings said.
“However, we must plan for a longer period of time, given the scale of the recession and its likely impact on international student numbers in 2021 and 2022. The framework restricts us from taking that view.”
Wellings said UOW’s anticipated budget shortfall sits around the $90 million mark. He added the university would preserve employment “as much as possible”.
Barnes yesterday said it was “greed and fear of scrutiny” among vice-chancellors that combined to derail the agreement.
"The worst crisis in the history of Australian universities demanded a collective solution to save careers and livelihoods," she said.
"Too many vice-chancellors are now baulking at the strong oversight provisions in the jobs framework that guarantee transparency and ensure that any contribution our members make will be dedicated to saving jobs.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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