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USyd to accept over 250 voluntary redundancies

The move comes amid union opposition.

The University of Sydney is proposing to accept 252 voluntary redundancies from staff as part of its Voluntary Redundancy (VR) Program.

In an all-staff email sent on Wednesday afternoon, the University indicated that it would accept redundancies from 137 academic staff and 115 professional staff.

The VR program was announced in September in response to projected revenue downfalls due to COVID-19. Continuing full-time staff and fixed-term staff with over 6 months left on their contract were eligible to submit EOIs for the program.

However, financial modelling released by the University earlier this year revealed that the University is projecting a surplus for 2020, and that revenue from student fees has increased in absolute terms from 2019 to 2020, mostly due to international student numbers recovering more than anticipated. 

The University is further anticipating that revenue from student fees will continue increasing each year from 2020 to 2025, although at a lower rate than pre-covid estimates.

Source: Long-Term Financial Plan. Original and Revised Projections to 2025

The Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) previously voted unanimously to oppose voluntary redundancies, citing the University’s improved financial position. 

Calling the VR program “pandemic opportunism,” NTEU Branch President Kurt Iveson told Honi that Spence “could have done the right thing and used the uni’s stronger than expected financial results to protect the quality of our education….Instead, he has used those financial resources to restructure the workforce by paying hundreds of people to walk out the door.”

The University received 505 EOIs in total for its VR program. In the email, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence indicated that the University did not accept EOIs where making those staff members redundant would “affect our capacity to continue vital work of the University, including where the educational experience of our students or our research outputs were significantly impacted.”

Of the 252 redundancies in play, 33 have been paused to allow for more detailed formal consultation. The other 219 will proceed to supplementary consultation with members of the affected staff member’s department.

Staff will start being made redundant under the VR program from December this year.