University of Sydney Union (USU) staff have been advised that they may opt-in to reduce their hours, following a “turndown in USU business activity.”
In a media statement issued on Thursday, USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat announced that the optional reductions were put in place so that staff would be able to claim the Government’s 2021 COVID-19 Disaster Payment.
The statement emphasised that the capacity reduction was not being enforced, and that “[a]ny permanent staff who do elect to reduce their hours do so voluntarily.”
In an interview with Honi at the end of July, Wilkins-Wheat stated that “we’re not looking at [cuts] as an option… the entire team agrees that we really want to just avoid that situation altogether.”
Wilkins-Wheat told Honi that the decision was made in consultation with staff and to prevent further cuts. However, the USU is not looking to meet a quota and there will be no consequences for staff who do not opt-in.
The program was approved by a working group with Wilkins-Wheat and Vice President Ruby Lotz, who represented the USU Board in the decision made alongside senior management. Wilkins-Wheat told Honi that “[the Board] were still informed and supportive of this action.”
The USU’s Annual Financial Report indicated that it posted a $786,399 surplus in 2020, a 36.7% increase over its surplus in 2019.
Wilkins-Wheat told Honi that the program will be available for the duration of the Disaster Payment period, which is currently projected to end on 28 August.