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VR program wrap-up sees 223 staff made redundant

The University acknowledged that its “revenue is higher than expected,” reflecting its $106.6 million operating surplus in 2020.

university quad on a sunny day with jacaranda tree in bloom

The University of Sydney has released its Post-Implementation Report for its Voluntary Redundancy (VR) Program, which saw 223 staff being made redundant.

USyd received 505 expressions of interest for the program and approved 240 to proceed to consultation, 223 of which were accepted. This number is lower than the 252 originally planned.

In the report, the University emphasised its “financial precarity” and argued that austerity measures were needed in a time of uncertainty. The University acknowledged that its “revenue is higher than expected,” reflecting its $106.6 million operating surplus in 2020.

The VR program was announced in December 2020 to mitigate an expected loss in revenue caused by COVID-19 and claims to ultimately create greater job security, as well as easing constraints on research, education and student support. 

The University’s modelling predicts the VR program will save $30.6 million each year for the next five years. 

The Faculty of Medicine and Health experienced the most significant loss of staff through the program, with USyd approving redundancies for 49 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions, while proposing to introduce alternate roles to reduce that net loss to 27 FTE positions.

USyd has also reduced its workforce by 18 FTE positions in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and 9 FTE positions in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which is around 9% of the Conservatorium’s 2020 base.

Additionally, 99 FTE administrative staff across the University accepted VR offers, a move which Grant Wheeler from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) NSW claims will “have a detrimental effect on student support and services, as well as staff morale”.

A graph from the Post-Implementation Report. Red bars above the line indicate numbers of academic and professional staff lost in each faculty. Grey bars below the line indicate alternative roles created.

According to the report, the University consulted with members of its leadership team and affected faculty members to review each expression of interest in voluntary redundancy. According to a spokesperson, the University “did not approve any voluntary redundancies in situations where the removal of a position would have a significant detrimental impact on the education experiences of students”.

Wheeler further commented that “members reported very deep frustrations with regard to their opportunities to provide feedback into measures to mitigate workload spikes caused by the loss of their colleagues”.

In an attachment to the report itself, staff feedback claims that the information in the report is misleading, and that “the process was poorly managed and communication was inadequate”. Another staff member stated they were “forced to do management’s job for them”.

The NTEU and Casuals Network did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.