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NTEU votes against voluntary redundancies

The motion comes after the University admitted that teaching revenue increased this year.

Protesters at the NTEU's strikes in 2017. Photograph: Nick Bonyhady

In a NTEU branch meeting today of more than 340 Sydney University members, staff voted unanimously in favour of a motion to oppose voluntary redundancies, and abandon all plans to cut jobs.

The motion also included commitments to build a university-wide meeting to discuss alternatives to cuts in addressing revenue shortfalls; establish a solidarity fund to assist members who have already lost income due to management cuts; and support the national NTEU campaign for Fair Funding to Universities.

“Really what we’re seeing here is a deepening in what has been happening to our sector for years, in terms of both the government and management’s response,” branch president Kurt Iveson told the meeting.

“We’re effectively saying in this motion that we won’t let more redundancies, insecure work and increased workloads be deepened in response to this crisis.”

The motion notes that modelling made available by management shows that the University’s revenues have fared much better during the pandemic than initially projected. 

Updated financial modelling, released today by the University, indicates that student fee revenue for this year is projected to be $1.735 billion, substantially higher than that for 2019 ($1.688 billion), and only 6.3% short of the University’s pre-COVID budget ($1.863 billion). 

In an email to staff this morning, Vice Chancellor Michael Spence stated that revenue losses had not been as large as initially projected. The University is $117 million short of its pre-coronavirus budget, rather than the $470 million projected in Semester 1 this year. This means that the University’s revised pandemic budget is in surplus. 

The University’s current financial revenue projections. Source: University of Sydney Draft Change Proposal Proposed Voluntary Redundancy Program, 17 September 2020.

The University remains committed to its voluntary redundancies program. In the same email, Spence stated that the University could not sustain saving measures enacted this year, such as the freeze on travel, new buildings and new hires. 

“Any salary savings generated through a voluntary [redundancy] process — which we hope will be the only staff measure required — will go towards easing the pressure on other areas of our expenditure, many of which have a direct impact on staff and their capacity to undertake research and teaching,” the email states.

The email also states that the University projects international student revenue to recover in part from next year, increasing from 65% of the initially projected revenue intake in Semester 1 2021 to 80% of the projected intake in Semester 2 2021.

The NTEU meeting also voted in favour of a motion to condemn the actions of NSW Police in breaking up student protests against cuts yesterday.

Next year’s provisionally-elected SRC President, Swapnik Sanagavarapu, addressed the meeting to describe his role as a legal observer at yesterday’s protest.

“The big boss inspector officer I spoke to had a pretty questionable interpretation of the Public Health Orders. He told me that gatherings this size were fine inside, but as soon as they were outside they breached the order,” Sanagavarapu told the meeting.

“The most disturbing instance from yesterday I observed was when an officer announced to students sitting on the lawns that they were fine if they were there to socialise, but if they were part of the protest they were breaching the Public Health Order,” Iveson said.

The NTEU is expected to continue to build opposition to the cuts and redundancies scheme.

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