News //

VC gives staff $2000 ‘COVID recognition’ payment; boasts “positive” finances

After ruthless cuts and staff underpayment, Scott also said he will be tripling spending on Welcome Week.

The University of Sydney will give its staff a one-off ‘COVID recognition payment’ of $2000, Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott announced in an email this afternoon.

The payment, which will be made to all permanent staff, and casual staff who have worked more than three pay periods this semester, is in recognition of their work throughout the recent lockdown. Members of the Senior Executive will not be eligible for the payment.

“Despite the difficult circumstances, the hard work and dedication of colleagues across the institution has meant that the University has also had a successful year,” Scott boasted. “It has been an extraordinary time, and this extraordinary measure is our way of saying thank you.”

NTEU USyd Branch President Patrick Brownlee welcomed the payment but called out the University’s failure to address the systemic wage theft of its casual staff. “If the message accompanying this payment was ‘we accept the NTEU’s advocacy about overwork and offer this as a down-payment towards any and all overtime unpaid’, then I could understand such a payment,” Brownlee said.

In the email, it was revealed that the University was ending the year in a “more positive financial position” than expected. “Our students stayed with us, more international students joined than we anticipated, and we have managed costs effectively in the face of a continuing uncertain outlook,” it read.

Scott also noted that the University is experiencing a growth in enrolments for the first time since 2019. He committed to tripling spending on next year’s Welcome Week and providing grants to “student organisations” (one can only hope this includes the SRC).

SRC Education Officer Maddie Clarke said these comments were a “slap in the face” to staff and students who have been fighting all year to save jobs and courses from being axed. “It is now overwhelmingly clear that [the University] is making millions,” she said. “Instead of giving a paltry one-off payment, they should use their surplus to stop the cuts, invest in more staff and increase our quality of education.”

As the NTEU fights against cost-cutting measures in the current round of enterprise bargaining negotiations, Brownlee took note of the University’s positive finances: “Presumably… In the New Year we can also look forward to a sector-leading pay rise.”