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Wollongong reaches agreement with unions over job-saving plan

Image: Molota Sergey [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Measures could save around 200 jobs and help mitigate financial impacts of Covid-19

The University of Wollongong has reached agreement with national and state unions over a two-year job-saving plan that would defer salary increases and rule out forced redundancies.

University staff will now vote on whether to accept the agreement reached by the unions and the university’s joint consultative committee.

If it is accepted, it will save around 200 jobs and help UOW meet a budget shortfall of $90 million related to financial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on student enrolments.

Vice-chancellor Paul Wellings welcomed support for the plan from local representatives of the National Tertiary Education Union and the Community and Public Sector Union.

“The creation of UOW’s local multi-year job-saving agreement is far superior to the national jobs framework which UOW stepped away from on 26 May,” he said in a university statement.

“I want to thank local unions for supporting the work done at the joint consultative committee as we now move to the next stage in this process. We all recognise this is not a position any of us would wish to find ourselves in.”

University staff will have a seven-day notice period to access the agreement and vote on whether to accept its terms. If the proposals are supported by a majority vote, an application for approval will be lodged with the Fair Work Commission, the national workplace relations tribunal.

“These are difficult circumstances and none of us want to see employment conditions reduced or jobs lost, but we must restore the university to a financially sustainable position and it has always been my hope that we could do so while preserving as many jobs as possible,” Wellings said.

Proposals contained in the agreement include: pay increases to be deferred for two years; a commitment to no forced redundancies; prioritising allocation of casual work to staff employed in the previous 12 months; and no staff to be stood down without pay as a result of Covid-19 impacts.   

Wellings said the university had enjoyed a decade of steady annual revenue growth that had benefited staff and students.

“That has enabled us to fund salary increases and absorb rising costs while maintaining an annual surplus of around 2 per cent to invest in new equipment and upgrades to technology and facilities. Those days are now behind us. This pandemic has changed everything.”