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Pressure on as SSAF deadline nears

A deal is close to being struck, reports Michael Koziol.

Empty pockets…the SSAF will raise $12.2 million in USYD students’ money next year.

Student organisations are expected to reach an agreement today on how to allocate next year’s pool of SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee) money.

The major sticking point of negotiations so far has been how to accommodate a cut of approximately $200,000 on last year’s funding. That comes about because, although the SSAF pool will increase through CPI to $12.2 million, the university will take out $2 million for a ‘Capital Sinking Fund’, which will leave organisations with slightly less money than was available last time.

All the relevant organisations – the University of Sydney Union (USU), Students’ Representative Council, Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF), Cumberland Students’ Guild (CSG), the Postgraduate Representative Association, and Student Services – had originally budgeted for CPI increases, which meant the total claims exceeded the available funds by almost $1 million.

Multiple sources have told Honi Soit that SUSF has been intransigent and must accept more cuts than it has been prepared to. Last year it took away $3.7 million, more than any other student organisation.

But the President of SUSF, Bruce Ross, who is part of its negotiating team, told Honi that his organisation had in fact volunteered to take a cut. “That was put on the table early and we’ve always adhered to that,” he said.

Mr Ross added that participants had agreed to keep all details negotiations confidential.

CSG will also take a hit to its historical funding. Last year it was allocated $700,000 including an “emergency” grant for occupational health and safety works, including air-conditioning and repairs to its gymnasium floor. But according to a source, those works were never carried out and CSG representatives now deny ever saying the money was to be used for those specific purposes. Another source said CSG had since backed down and was now “back in the fold”.

President of the USU, Astha Ravjanshi,  was confident that an amenable agreement would be reached today.

“Everyone was being a little bit unreasonable at the beginning but everyone is realising that it’s not possible to have unrealistic expectations,” she said. It is understood that if the student organisations fail to reach an agreement on how to divide the money, the university could take away their autonomy over the allocation process.

Ms Rajvanshi said that because the previous round of negotiations were undertaken in March, there had not been enough time to collaborate on potential cost-savings. “That’s something we’ll start working on at the beginning of next year,” she said.

Student organisations are required to submit their proposal to the university’s SSAF allocation committee, and the Senior Executive Group, by October 31.