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Budgetary measures cut Science jobs - where next?

Three weeks ago Science Faculty staff received a letter saying that the Faculty was in the red and 16 jobs had to go.  The term "financial exigency" was used. You would think that there was a financial necessity arising from a drop in revenue (such as that created by a loss of international students) that made it necessary to cut costs.

This time the story is different. This "financial exigency" is an artificially created budget shortfall. It was created in two ways - the first by setting a budgetary target that the Faculty is not meeting even though it is covering all its normal costs. The second is because a decision has been taken to bring to Monash a research facility and team until recently in Queensland; renovate a facility to accommodate this new laboratory and to provide in future for the placement in continuing positions of five of these research-only employees - apparently without merit-based selection into advertised positions. So University management says that budgetary headroom must be provided and 16 jobs are to go.

The jobs that are excess to requirement - the normal way of understanding redundancy situations - are to be found by people nominating themselves to take Enhanced Voluntary Separation Packages and thus identifying their jobs to be cut. This is not a plan for quality of education or quality of support of academic work or of students. It is just a process to achieve a budgetary target.

You may also care to contemplate what difference to Australia's research outputs this movement of research facilities makes. There is a significant expense in the refit of a building and the relocation of staff, which in turn is costing 16 people here their jobs. Net gain for the Australian community? Nothing visible. Net cost? 16 jobs and millions of dollars.

What is the NTEU doing? We are fighting these cuts. We called a well-attended meeting of members and put to them a plan, which they amended and endorsed.

"This meeting of NTEU members in the Faculty of Science:

1. condemns moves by University management to further reduce the number of Academic and Professional staff employed in the Faculty;

2. believes that any job losses will lead to a reduction in the quality of education and support services provided to undergraduate and postgraduate students;

3. rejects outright the argument of financial exigency as the basis for any redundancies;

4. condemns a financial management system by which University Central Support Charges and a requirement to return a surplus can contrive to force Schools into a budgetary deficit;

5. demands that in times of financial pressure all other savings options must be explored and acted upon before any staff losses occur; and

Further, this meeting:

1. requests that DVC(R) Prof. Cornish and VP Administration Peter Marshall address a meeting of all Faculty staff to explain and justify their demands for job cuts;

2. resolves to respond to the lack of respect shown by Management towards staff in the Faculty by withdrawing any acts of goodwill;

3. resolves to provide information to prospective students and other visitors on Open Day 2011;

4. resolves to encourage members of the Faculty of Science, as defined under Statute 2.3, to call for a special meeting of the faculty to consider the proposed organisational change circulated on 6 June 2011. The purpose of that meeting will be to provide guidance relevant to that proposal to Faculty Board; and

5. resolves to support all actions taken by NTEU in defence of jobs in the Faculty, including attending local area meetings."

We have also lodged three dispute notifications about this - not because we think we can win this on the technicalities, but because the technicalities give us access to information that we use to build our campaign to protect the jobs and the livelihoods of the people in them. We have to learn to defend our jobs more effectively and we cannot allow ourselves to just accept this uncaring approach to quality and to the people who provide it.

School Action Meetings are being held in the next two weeks to consider the effect of last year's redundancies and actions to be taken by staff in response to the new job cuts.

The meeting details are:

School of Chemistry
12 noon, Thursday 30 June, Bruce West Seminar Room
Contact: Phil Andrews, ext. 55509

School of Physics
10am, Thursday 30 June, Physics and Materials Eng. Tea Room
Contact: Susan Feteris, ext. 54180 

School of Biological Sciences
1pm, Thursday 30 June, Sanson Room (G01/02, Building 22)
Contact: John Pezy, ext. 54110

School of Geosciences
10:30am, Friday July 1, G60, Building 28
Contact: Liz Schroeder, ext. 59215

All other enquiries, contact the NTEU Branch Office - John Pezy, ext. 54110 or Liz Schroeder, ext. 59215.

The power to protect jobs lies with members working collectively. By working together, members can protect their jobs from the profit motivation of senior management. Come to the meetings, talk to your colleagues and encourage them to come as well.

Most staff understand the "financial exigency" purported to necessitate the redundancies is a construct by senior management to give them an excuse to cut yet more staff essential to the function of the University. The University has already endured a massive reduction in the number of staff last year, which has put unsustainable pressure on workloads and makes it harder teach, conduct research and adequately service students. With the support of members, NTEU is doing everything it can to oppose these job cuts. We will be calling on your support in different ways in the coming weeks and we know you will stand up for our Faculty of Science and the students we inspire.

To find out more and get involved in the campaign, speak with your School contacts above or John Pezy on ext. 54110, Liz Schroeder on ext. 59215 or Josh Cullinan on 0416 241 763. You can also email us at nteu@monash.edu.au.