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Adelaide Uni pay and job cuts on table over budget black hole

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Adelaide University staff will this week vote to have their pay cut by 3.5 per cent as part of a union deal to retain 200 jobs – but hundreds more could still be lost as the university confronts huge losses in its pandemic-smashed budget.

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In an email to staff this morning, seen by InDaily, acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Brooks wrote that the university had reached an “in-principle” agreement with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to cut employee pay by 3.5 per cent until July 2021, helping it save 200 out of a total 400 full-time jobs that currently face the axe.

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

But they would be given the option to buy back an extra 15 days of paid leave during closedown periods.

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.

To cope with the loss, the Vice-Chancellor’s executive team has accepted a 20 per cent pay cut over three months, all capital projects have been put on hold and faculty budgets have been reviewed.  

But that would only save $65 million – leaving some $35 million unfunded.

“Even with all of the current measures in place, our remaining budget shortfall for 2021 is expected to be at the very least $60 million,” Brooks wrote in an email to staff last month, also seen by InDaily.

“It is therefore essential that further savings of $60 million are made.

“The savings we need to make would equate to the loss of some 400 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.”

In his email to staff this morning, Brooks wrote that the university’s executive had “constructive” discussions with the NTEU, with the union’s national executive endorsing the proposed variations to the enterprise agreement.  

The union will this week take the proposal to its Adelaide University members, with a separate all-staff vote scheduled “within the next few days or so”.

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

“We are hopeful NTEU members will take the opportunity to vote in support of the proposed savings measures, which would preserve approximately 200 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs,” Brooks wrote.

“You have a lot to consider and I acknowledge the very understandable concern that many of you are feeling. 

“Nevertheless, having pursued to the full extent possible alternative savings strategies, I believe that by sharing in these necessary savings in this way, we are taking the best approach for all staff, and for our university.”

NTEU general secretary Matthew McGowan confirmed to InDaily this morning that the union had agreed to the deal “in principle”, but “the staff get the final say”.

“We are concerned that we are looking at a massive drop in international student income and other funding revenue, so we are trying to protect as many jobs as possible,” he said.

“The variation provides financial savings while looking to retain some jobs.”

McGowan said a union member vote would open tomorrow.

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

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