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Adelaide Uni deal to cut pay and save jobs passes first hurdle

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The majority of Adelaide University’s union members have backed a deal to have their pay cut by 3.5 per cent to save about 200 jobs following huge losses to the university’s pandemic-smashed budget.

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In an email to staff this morning, seen by InDaily, Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Brooks said 71.4 per cent of National Tertiary Education Union members voted in favour of the proposal to cut employee pay by 3.5 per cent until July 2021 in order to help save 200 out of a total 400 full-time jobs currently under threat.

Under the deal, staff would miss out on a scheduled 1.5 per cent pay rise for four months and forgo annual leave loading.

They would also be subject to a general “purchased leave” arrangement, with 15 days of leave to be taken by staff during closedown periods this year and next.

In his email, Brooks said the university faced “difficult times”, but the deal would help “minimise” job losses.

“This is a pleasing result and we will now proceed to an all-staff vote,” he wrote.

“In sharing the savings in this way we will minimise job losses and avoid the major restructuring we would otherwise have to pursue.

“I also believe our University’s greatest asset is our outstanding complement of staff.

“I hope we all continue to stand as a community to protect staff jobs and help ensure a strong and sustainable future for our University.”

NTEU state branch secretary Ron Slee said about three-quarters of union members voted, with past experience suggesting an all-staff vote would produce a similar result to the union decision.

“We took the view that it would be in the interest of members on balance to vote for this because the purpose was to try to save at least a couple of hundred jobs and the alternative would be far worse,” he said.

“It’s a big ask asking in some cases members with ongoing positions to sacrifice some of their salary but we believe it will work out for the better.”

It comes as the university faces an anticipated $100 million shortfall for its 2020 budget, with current projections indicating that the total reduction in revenue in 2020 and 2021 would be in the order of $225 million, compared with that generated last year.

The shortfall is largely driven by a $78 million decline in international student enrolments following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Melbourne University earlier this week announced it would axe 450 permanent staff.

The university – the richest tertiary institution in Australia – said it expected to lose $1 billion in revenue over the next three years, largely due to plummeting international student enrolments.

InDaily reported on Tuesday that the $60 million in savings that Adelaide University needed to find equated to the loss of about 400 full-time jobs, but under the deal negotiated with the union, 200 of those could be saved.

The proposal will now be presented to all university staff, who have seven days to consider it before an electronic all-staff ballot is opened on Monday August 17.

If a majority of staff vote in favour of the proposal, it would then be referred to the Fair Work Commission for approval.

The university will hold a staff forum on Tuesday to provide an update on the proposed changes.

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