Campus Review: Macquarie stonewalls on staff review

By Louis White, for Campus Review

June 13, 2012

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is planning to take Macquarie University to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal next week over its refusal to release a final report into a review of its support staff services.

Both the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) are concerned that significant job losses will occur as a result of the report’s recommendations. “There are strong rumours that up to 60 support staff jobs are going,” said Genevieve Kelly, NTEU NSW secretary.

“We are also hearing that staff are being bullied to take voluntary redundancy. We don’t think that is a very good public sector way of doing things. Considering the university’s vice-chancellor [Steven Schwartz] is the highest paid academic in the country earning $1.1 million (£707,000) per annum, we think there is room for staff to stay. “All we want to do is see the report and if it is a public education institution we don’t see why it should be kept top secret. If the university doesn’t release it we will be appealing to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.”

Macquarie University commissioned consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to conduct a review of the support and administrative services at the university last year with a view to achieving cost and structural improvement. Recommendations in the report have not been released and the NTEU formally requested the report under the Government Information (Public Access) Act but was refused access by Macquarie management.

The matter was then forwarded for review to the Office of the Information Commission (OIC), who wrote to Macquarie University on 25 May citing “significant errors” by the university in not releasing the report.

The OIC’s concern comes from the university’s submission under section 14 of the GIPA Act that they “cannot tell from the University’s notice of decision, which clause or which public interest consideration against disclosure, it relied on when making its decision”.

The OIC, pursuant to section 93 of the GIPA Act, recommended that the university reconsider its decision by way of internal review and notify the OIC within five working days of receipt of the letter of the actions it intends to take in response to its recommendations. The OIC recommendations are not binding and not reviewable under the GIPA Act.

A Macquarie University spokesperson said: “The university commissioned a report from Deloitte into Macquarie’s support services. It was not a change proposal, merely one of a number of inputs into the university’s strategy. The Community and Public Sector Union and the National Tertiary Education Union applied to have it released under the provisions of the GIPA Act. We reviewed their requests and determined that there were no grounds for its release.

“The OIC believed that determination was not done correctly, however, and asked us to review the application again. We’ve agreed to do so, and have informed the CPSU and NTEU, as well as the OIC, accordingly.

“Where the university is considering any change to staff structures, we have released proposals and consulted with staff and the unions in the appropriate way, as agreed to in our enterprise agreement.”

Those comments reveal that the university has no intention of making the report public, further irritating the NTEU. “Every institution needs checks and balances and Macquarie University is no different,” Kelly said. “You can’t act like a corporation and then not be held accountable. We will continue to follow this issue through.”

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