More than 200 jobs to go at Australian National University

Latest losses bring national coronavirus tally to about 11,000 jobs, excluding casual and fixed term positions

九月 16, 2020
Australian National University

Two years after its vice-chancellor declared that the Australian National University (ANU) had grown “about as big as it can be”, the Canberra institution is set to get smaller.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt has announced plans to cut 215 positions – about 4.5 per cent of the university’s workforce – during a virtual staff meeting.

“It is now clear that we will face ongoing financial constraints in 2021 and beyond,” he told staff. “We must adapt to our new circumstances and the challenges we face to thrive in the future.”

The university said that it needed to save A$103 million (£58 million) each year until 2023. Half of this would come from employee costs, with non-salary savings insufficient to “close the structural deficit”.

ANU said that A$13.5 million had been saved by staff agreeing to defer a scheduled pay rise, with the proceeds spent on averting the losses of a further 90 positions. But while some employees had already relinquished their jobs, others would now need to consider “voluntary separations” to achieve the reduction target.

Forced redundancies would be “a last resort”, the university said.

The university will also maintain flexible working arrangements to reduce its “space footprint”. Other savings measures include limiting the use of consultants and contractors, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving procurement procedures and cutting down on printing.

Travel costs will be limited by “maintaining alternative modes of collaboration” after border closures lift, and by negotiating better fares.

Professor Schmidt said that the university was developing a recovery plan to “steer us out of the current crisis”. A consultation document outlines the university’s financial position and the savings plans.

“The challenge for 2021 and beyond is to ensure our ongoing ability to operate within our highly constrained projected revenue,” it says. “It is not good enough just to survive the pandemic; we must thrive and help provide the building blocks for the national recovery.”

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said that the staff reduction target did not take account of some 250 employees who had already relinquished their jobs or hundreds more casual and fixed-term staff who had left. The news coincided with revelations that more than half of the 493 job cuts previously announced at UNSW Sydney would be forced redundancies.

“[It] brings the total number of job losses that NTEU is aware of in universities over the past few months to well over 11,000, which doesn’t include the several thousand casual and fixed-term staff who have been sacked or not re-employed,” said national president Alison Barnes.

“NTEU cannot understand how the government can just sit idly watching thousands and thousands of jobs disappearing from higher education. If it was just about any other sector of the economy it would be headline news. Most of these job losses could have been prevented if the government had made JobKeeper [employment subsidy payments] available to university workers.

“The job loss catastrophe at our universities is sending thousands of workers to [social welfare agency] Centrelink. They should be at work, teaching, training and driving the research to get us out of recession.”

The NTEU’s Australian Capital Territory division secretary, Cathy Day, said that ANU chancellor and former foreign minister Julie Bishop should call her erstwhile colleagues in the government and “tell them to stop this ongoing jobs disaster, not only for her institution but for all Australian universities”.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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