UOW refutes misleading union claims

NTEU fully informed on workplace changes and finances

UOW refutes misleading union claims

The University of Wollongong (UOW) is disappointed by the misleading public claims made by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) today (Friday 11 December 2020).

The claims follow a Joint Consultative Committee meeting yesterday during which questions on these matters were addressed in good faith discussions.

UOW is seeking to work constructively with local campus unions as we restore the University to a financially sustainable position, and is disappointed by misrepresentations which may unnecessarily stoke fear and uncertainty among staff while workplace change consultation is still underway.

One-UOW staff consultation progressing

The University of Wollongong is currently undergoing an institution-wide change program to introduce a new operating model, ‘One-UOW’, which was announced on Monday 9 November 2020.

The University has been explaining the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in public statements since April this year and has repeatedly stated there is no scenario in which the University can return to financial sustainability without impacting on staffing levels.

The One-UOW operating model, designed to reduce duplication and find efficiencies in UOW’s professional service functions, will help restore the university to financial sustainability while preserving the quality of UOW’s teaching and research. It is being implemented in accordance with the change processes agreed with local campus staff unions in Enterprise Agreements.

UOW has engaged in thorough staff consultation and ensured every staff member has had the opportunity to be fully informed of proposed changes, provide feedback and have access to appropriate support. The initial round of consultation has now been completed. Feedback has been considered and revised proposals are being put to staff for further feedback,

New organisational structures will be finalised once further staff feedback has been received and considered. Positions in the restructured organisation will be filled via fair, transparent and competitive staff selection processes. UOW’s Enterprise Agreements provide for redeployment and support arrangements for staff affected by these changes.

The NTEU knows this process will not be completed until early in 2021.The University will not speculate on the number of positions that will be affected by this change program prior to its completion.

UOW accounts publicly available; NTEU fully briefed but figures misleading

UOW’s financial statements, and associated explanatory notes, are available in its annual reports. The NTEU has been provided with the 2019 report and fully briefed on cost savings measures.

The NTEU has been misleading in its use of quoted financial figures. The Union has quoted consolidated figures, which include the public institution (UOW) and its commercial arm, UOW Global Enterprises, which includes UOW in Dubai, UOW Hong Kong, UOW Malaysia KDU and UOW College. These all financially support the Australian public institution, UOW.

The relevant figures, which relate only to the public institution (UOW) are substantially less than those quoted by the NTEU and clearly outlined in the financial statements.

Figures quotes are also 2019 figures. UOW has already acted to minimise 2020 operating costs in response to COVID-19.

Since February, all discretionary spending has been subjected to executive oversight and strict controls. Progress on the operational savings achieved has been reported to staff by the Vice-Chancellor in briefings, which have also been provided to the media. Regular updates to staff will continue into the future. 2020 figures will be reported in the 2020 Annual Report, which is expected to be tabled in the NSW Parliament by May 2021.

UOW has provided detailed information about its financial position to the NTEU’s Expert Assessment Panel, which considered COVID’19’s financial impact on UOW so significant as to justify staff reductions and concessions on employment conditions. This national NTEU panel acknowledged that UOW had sought alternative cost savings and funding measures prior to considering staff reductions.

‘Shock’ expert panel appointment

The appointment of UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, to an unpaid role on an expert panel that will help translate university research into commercially viable innovation to aid Australia’s economic recovery-which has apparently “shocked” the NTEU’s Acting Branch President-was announced by the Minister for Education and the University of Wollongong and reported in the Australian Financial Review on 11 November and reported on Wave FM and in UOW’s own staff newsletter on 12 November.

Professor Wellings brings to the panel extensive expertise and experience from a long career as a university researcher, as a Vice-Chancellor of two universities in Australia and the United Kingdom, and his previous senior role in Australia’s leading research organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

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