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FASS staff vote against foreshadowed job cuts

The vote follows news that the FASS Heads of Schools had been asked to “propose concrete school-based or broader suggestions” to cut 30% of full-time employment.

Students protesting proposed FASS cuts in May. Photo: Chuyi Wang.

At a meeting of more than 200 Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) staff today, staff voted by an overwhelming majority against potential job cuts.

The motion passed at today’s meeting calls for the University’s executive management to make up shortfalls by “draw[ing] on and borrow[ing] against the University’s significant financial and physical assets” rather than cutting jobs. 

The vote follows news that the FASS Heads of Schools had been asked to “propose concrete school-based or broader suggestions” to cut 30% of full-time employment.

A representative from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) claims that this may indicate Sydney University management are considering staff cuts of up to 30% across the University.

A University-wide 30% cut would be equivalent to the loss of 3000 jobs, dwarfing cuts recently announced at UNSW, the University of Melbourne and UTS.

“The University of Sydney management must come clean on its plans to cut jobs. Cuts of up to 30% would compromise the ability of the University to fulfil its obligations to provide high quality teaching, research and student support,” states Dr Damien Cahill, Assistant Secretary of the NSW NTEU.

“Cuts would be devastating for anyone who loses their job in the middle of the biggest economic downturn in living memory.”

The University has rejected that it is currently looking to implement such cuts.

“As we’ve flagged with staff and unions over the last month, we are looking at how best to safeguard Sydney from the ongoing financial impact of this pandemic in a range of different scenarios,” a University spokesperson told Honi Soit.

“These are scenarios that may never eventuate. We think it’s too early to predict what will happen in 2021 and if we have to move to measures that will affect our staff we want to be more certain about the numbers. Whatever happens, staff will be consulted first and normal change processes will apply.”

The University did not deny that a 30% cut was being considered.

In a joint statement, SRC Education Officers Jazzlyn Breen and Jack Mansell have condemned potential cuts.“Unsurprisingly the University’s promises that it would not pursue job cuts were empty,” it states. 

“In announcing these job cuts indirectly and at the discretion of heads of school, Jagose has again shown utter contempt for staff and students.”

Earlier this year, the FASS rolled back an attempt to cull 30% of courses to a “pause” on 8% of courses following opposition from staff and students.

Moreover, the proposed FASS cuts come after the recent acknowledgement of systemic underpayment of staff by the University, which may mean the University is liable for millions in back pay. 

The Australian higher education sector is experiencing its biggest crisis in decades, due in large part to COVID-19 related revenue losses and a failure of the Federal Government to provide the JobKeeper subsidy to public universities. 

More to come.

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