End to University negotiations aimed at achieving savings

The University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky, has today advised staff that the University has been unable to reach agreement with Unions on salary-related measures to help address the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the institution.

The institution announced earlier in the year that it was forecasting a $58 million reduction in revenue for 2020, with further financial impacts anticipated in 2021 and beyond. As a consequence of this revenue loss the VC has advised staff that the organisation will need to find $35 million in savings in 2021.

Discussions with the CPSU and NTEU had been underway since late June and the University had set a deadline of Monday 10 August for negotiations to conclude. Agreement had been reached on measures within existing Enterprise Agreements. These include voluntary measures related to annual leave, long service leave, purchased leave and an early retirement scheme.

The University had also been seeking agreement on salary-related measures that would see the deferral of two scheduled 2% pay rises and annual pay increments until December 2021.

“I am disappointed that Unions have not supported these measures. We have tried earnestly to find common ground in our negotiations,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“I genuinely believe we were in a position to reach an agreement with the CPSU. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement with the NTEU. This is a difficult time for our staff, as it is for many in our community. Our goal was to delay pay increases and save around $12m to $15m, which would have equated to around 120 additional jobs that could have been protected, depending on the mix of academic, teaching, and professional staff. We will now need to find $12-$15 million in further savings through measures within our existing Enterprise Agreements,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

The University will pursue these savings from restructuring, course reviews, and seeking other efficiencies across the institution.

“We are firmly committed to making decisions regarding savings in line with our Looking Ahead strategic plan priorities and ensuring that our students continue to have an outstanding education and experience and that our regions benefit from our presence,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“Our University has long been an anchor institution in our communities and has helped drive recovery despite the upheavals that our regions have faced – from the BHP closure to natural disasters like earthquakes and bushfires. We will again rise to this challenge,” he said.

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