After already having slashed hundreds of jobs since the onset of the pandemic, Macquarie University has this week notified over 300 professional staff that their positions will be disestablished in a major ‘spill and fill’ exercise, which will leave staff having to fight for newly created, lower paid positions.
The latest round of job cuts at Macquarie comes in addition to the 239 professional and over 150 academic staff jobs already lost since March 2020, despite there being no evidence that the University’s finances are in crisis. Meanwhile, the senior executive at Macquarie hasn’t faced a pay cut, remaining untouched from relentless staffing cuts.
The University is looking to save up to $8.1 million in costs by disestablishing 300 full time equivalent jobs across student services and all four faculties, restructuring approximately 25% of its ongoing professional staff workforce.
Macquarie is also proposing to close Faculty Student Centres altogether in favour of a centralised model, meaning that students will lose tailored support services.
As part of the ‘spill and fill’, hundreds of staff will have to choose between expressing interest in downgraded positions where they may be doing the same work for less pay or being sacked and taking their organisational knowledge with them.
The University is telling staff that the changes will promote “better career pathways,” yet there is no guarantee that staff whose jobs are being disestablished will be rehired.
NTEU Macquarie Branch President Nikki Balnave described the latest restructuring as “a sequel to last year’s Hunger Games style academic staff cuts.”
“Professional staff, who have worked tirelessly to support staff and students over the most turbulent period of the University’s history will now be required to fight between themselves for positions, many of which have been downgraded.”
“Management claim this initiative is about putting ‘students first’, but are ignoring the fundamental role that professional staff play in enabling the optimal student experience both directly and through their role in supporting the wider University community.”
Cathy Rytmeister, a professional staff employee, observed that the ‘spill and fill’ would disproportionately affect women who have faced the brunt of job losses in the university sector and society as a whole since the pandemic:
“They are leveraging staff anxiety over an uncertain job market to squeeze even more work out of staff, often for less pay…The job cuts will mean more administrative work for academic staff too – work that is often picked up by women and casual staff.”
Rytmeister said that the proposal was “incredibly damaging” and “will have long-term negative impacts on the University’s capacity to meet student administration and support needs.”
It is feared the cuts will further decline the student experience. Macquarie’s staff and student ratio more than doubled since 2019 to 69:1, the worst in Australia.
A final year Bachelor of Commerce student, Emily Freeman, praised the work of staff at the Macquarie Business School whose positions are on the chopping block: “Without their round the clock support and passion to enhance the experience of students I don’t believe Macquarie University can offer the same value to students.”
The NTEU has vowed to fight back against the proposal which is believed to be the largest assault on staff jobs in Macquarie University’s history.
Editor’s note: The title of this article was amended at 4:11pm 31 October.