UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs has announced a jobs bloodbath. The university will cut 493 positions as it restructures eight faculties into six and eight admin divisions down to six. This is the next phase in a job cutting process that started in first semester with mass sackings of casuals.
Despite crying poor, UNSW has net assets of $3.1 billion, pays its vice-chancellor $1.3 million and has eight other executives on over $500,000 a year. There is plenty of money for pet projects such as the “security and defence-focused innovation hub” announced on 5 March in the Canberra Times: “UNSW to build $1 billion Canberra campus after securing prime city land for next to nothing”. In case there was any doubt about the administration’s priorities, the Times confirmed on 13 June: “The University of New South Wales is pushing ahead with plans to build a new $1 billion campus in the heart of Canberra, despite the institution facing a massive budget hit from the COVID-19 crisis”.
You would search in vain for NTEU criticism of this $1 billion extravagance, which could have covered the wages of every one of those to be sacked for many years to come.
Instead of telling the bosses to find the savings elsewhere, NTEU officials have accepted from the outset that the crisis has to be paid for from the wages and conditions of their own members. They just want a seat at the table administering the cuts.
NTEU NSW secretary Damien Cahill told ABC radio that the union leaders had advice to offer UNSW management: they should have taken up the NTEU officials’ so-called National Jobs Protection Framework (JPF), i.e. wage cuts of up to 15 percent, agreed and implemented in collaboration with the NTEU officials.
Despite the framework being overwhelmingly rejected by members at a 300-strong NTEU meeting in May, many hundreds of other UNSW staff have already copped a massive wage cut by volunteering to reduce their hours by 20 percent. But concessions don’t save jobs. This is how the bosses have always repaid any sacrifices workers make for some mythical common good. Offering concessions just means the bosses are emboldened to demand more concessions – including our jobs.
It’s not as if this should come as a surprise. Everything that the rank and file activists of NTEU Fightback argued from the day the NTEU officials’ closed door concession-mongering became public in April has been tragically borne out.
At Monash University, vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner proclaimed the JPF deal had managed to save 190 jobs. But a Monash spokeswoman told the Australian that 277 staff will still be cut due to the university’s more than $300 million COVID-induced financial hit. The JPF means vice-chancellors can just pull numbers of “saved jobs” out of a hat and the NTEU officials accept it as truth. And those 277 job losses came alongside the union agreeing to a delay in pay rises, a leave-purchase scheme and a moratorium on bonuses.
At La Trobe University the deal the NTEU and La Trobe management pushed through cut wages by 10 percent but has not prevented massive job losses there either. Shortly after the vote to accept the JPF, and despite 239 voluntary redundancies, La Trobe announced it was looking at 215-415 forced redundancies later in the year.
Students have called a demonstration to fight the cuts. NTEU members must join with them in opposing this attack. The real alternative is to resist all attempts to cut wages, conditions or jobs, whether pushed by management or union officials or both.
That will be the focus of the NTEU Fightback online forum, “Don’t mourn, organise! A public meeting on resetting the NTEU”, 6pm Wednesday, 22 July.