Article from: The Australian Andrew Trounson | November 20, 2008
INDUSTRIAL unrest at Victorian universities is set to worsen after La Trobe University warned staff that voluntary job cuts weren’t meeting targets, raising the prospect of compulsory layoffs.
In response the National Tertiary Education Union has accused the university of accelerating the pace of previously announced savings targets.
Today hundreds of university staff across the Victorian sector will hold a public protest in Melbourne. The NTEU has accused vice-chancellors of acting prematurely in seeking to cut jobs when a funding boost from Canberra is expected following the release of the Bradley Review next month.
Over 470 administrative and academic jobs are on the block in Victoria as universities get squeezed by chronic government under-funding with indexation at only half the inflation rate.
Tumbling investment income is also set to hit well-endowed institutions, while growth in offshore student revenue is expected to slow.
But the NTEU is angry that universities are choosing to cut staff while still funding instrastructure expansions.
“In an environment when we are expecting increased funding from the federal government, the moves to cut staff is premature,” NTEU Victorian secretary Matthew McGowan told The Australian.
La Trobe is looking to cut at least 180 administrative and academic staff while Victoria University is planning to shed 270 jobs.
The NTEU is also concerned about job losses at RMIT. RMIT is seeking 10 voluntary redundancies at two schools, health sciences and arts, but the union fears there is the potential for more losses as budgets are squeezed.
But RMIT’s chief operating officer Steve Somogyi ruled out any across the board cuts.
“The university has no plans for any across the board staff cuts. This minor restructuring is voluntary and specific to two schools,” he told The Australian.
The University of Melbourne has been downsizing its arts faculty with around 50 academic staff cut in the last two years, and a further 12 set to go.
At La Trobe vice chancellor Paul Johnson told staff this week that voluntary redundancies to date amounted to $12.4 million worth of savings “well short” of a council target of $23 million.
However, the university had previously flagged it was seeking $13 million in savings in 2009, rising to $23 million by 2012.
“We are concerned that the process is going faster than is necessary,” acting NTEU branch president Virginia Lees told The Australian.
“It looks like they are trying to get the 2012 figure now,” she said.
La Trobe has now extended the time frame for the voluntary round and extended the departure date out to June 2009.
“However, if the required savings aren’t realised through this revised voluntary redundancy scheme, a number of targeted compulsory redundancies may still be required,” Professor Johnson told staff.
At Victoria University vice chancellor Liz Harman is facing a revolt over job cuts with the NTEU set to strike next month after the job cut soured stalled enterprise bargaining talks.