NTEU disputes staff cuts following ACU staff agreement

Less than one week after the new Enterprise Agreement came into effect, ACU announced plans to save $16 million in professional staff salaries.

The proposed savings are to be achieved by reducing the number of professional staff employed across the university by the equivalent of 110 full-time positions. Yet the Australian Catholic University (ACU) had previously communicated to staff that the deficit would be achieved without any job cuts.

Following this announcement, NTEU informed senior management at ACU that the university had not fully met the obligations to staff in the newly ratified Enterprise Agreement. Specifically, the new Enterprise Agreement included new obligations to protect staff from forced job losses, as well as to undertake appropriate consultation in preparation for major changes to the University’s work. 

Based on broad feedback from staff who will be directly affected by changes, the University has failed to ensure plans are informed by the experience and knowledge of staff, and have not given staff sufficient opportunity to influence decisions around proposed changes. 

NTEU ACU Branch President, Dr Leah Kaufmann, said “When the university announced the proposed job cuts, we became concerned about the impact on ACU’s staff. The seemingly rapid adoption of a new approach, which relies so heavily on job cuts to reduce the University’s expenditure without prior consultation or clear and thorough documentation, was an unwelcome surprise. We believe there are other areas of expenditure where cuts could be made, and these would have less impact on individual staff, our community, and the core work of the university. We note that professional staff are vital to providing quality education and research, as well as providing direct support to both staff and students.”

NTEU Victorian Assistant Secretary (Professional Staff), Ruth Jelley said “We are particularly disappointed that ACU would move so quickly to target professional staff to address their budget challenges, when those staff have worked so hard to ensure the University’s success both prior to and during the pandemic.”

Over the previous six years, ACU has posted operating surpluses of more than $224 million. 

NTEU asks that ACU rescind the current change proposal and do the work of genuinely consulting with ACU staff about how to meet the challenges of the budget deficit, including calling for voluntary redundancies as outlined in the Enterprise Agreement. Finally, any change documentation must indicate what work will no longer performed and what work will be transferred to remaining staff. 

As staff bargaining continues across the country at a number of universities, it is crucial for staff to feel safe in the outcomes promised in the agreement and to know that senior management will be held accountable if the agreement is not followed. 

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