531 ACU staff signed an NTEU submission to the ACU Senate calling on Senators to defer VC Greg Craven’s “COVID-19 Recovery Budget”, which proposes $42 million in job & pay cuts over 3 years in order to prop up a $46 million surplus over the same period.
The signatories asked ACU Senators to defer the Recovery Budget until outgoing Vice-Chancellor Professor Craven and DVC/COO Dr Stephen Weller have gone through the independent transparency measures agreed between the NTEU and the Australian Higher Education Industry Association (AHEIA).
To date, ACU management have provided ACU staff with a single page spreadsheet of un-audited financial summaries, a comments link that required staff to self-identify, and 3 write-in Q&A sessions. Staff responded with an enormous 652 objections, questions, and concerns which were published unanswered before consultation was declared “concluded”.
Meanwhile, the financial documents show ACU to be in a great financial position, with over $60 million cash on hand, over $757 million in reserves, and a 2020 surplus over $38 million – leaving ACU staff and the Union to conclude that Professor Craven and Dr Weller are using the pandemic as an excuse to fire 200 or more (174 FTE) ACU staff and cancel an agreed pay rise.
ACU management have categorically rejected the NTEU and staff’s position that surpluses should be used to save jobs and conditions, and also refused to borrow in order to cover the COVID revenue shortfall. In contrast, ACU is due to borrow an additional $50 million on December 31st in order to complete building development and cover capital expenditure.
In addition, Dr Weller has also denied the NTEU’s request to voluntarily delay the approval of his “worst-case” Recovery Budget which he seeks to have approved by ACU Senate in December. NTEU ACU Branch President Dr Leah Kaufmann argues that – intended or not – the approval of an un-audited worst-case budget empowers management with the authority to cut staff jobs and conditions, before any such move is demonstrated as required. It also undermines the process of transparent consultation staff are entitled to.
Dr Kaufmann said, “Our members want real transparency. We’re not willing to support any cuts to jobs or conditions without evidence that they’re necessary to save our university; we’re ready to come to the table and talk with management the moment that they engage in the fair independent transparency process that AHEIA and the NTEU have already agreed to.”
“The most prudent thing for ACU Senators to do would be to defer the ‘Recovery Budget’ to create time for senior management to go through genuine consultation with staff and the union. It’s unfortunate that the Vice Chancellor and the COO haven’t done that already, but we’re ready to talk and cooperate on a way forward if they’re willing to show ACU staff the respect they deserve.”
“As far as we can tell, staff have never made a submission like this to the ACU Senate before. 531 staff calling on our decision-makers to do the right thing for the institution is unprecedented, and it shows how many staff are upset with management’s refusal to be genuine or transparent with us.”