Action can stop job cuts at Melbourne Uni

A COLD, wind-swept day did not stop over 120 Melbourne Uni staff and students joining a protest against university management’s plan to sack 20 academics in the arts faculty. The protest was called by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the union representing most staff at the university.

Academics generating less than five research points between 2003 and 2007 will be judged “research inactive” and be eligible for compulsory redundancy. The points were calculated through the discredited Research Quality Framework (RQF).

“Research inactive” staff will have to front a panel to justify why they should keep their job.

The sickening part of the exercise is that if the Dean of Arts is successful in sacking enough academics to save about $2 million, a $16 million cash injection will be put into the faculty.

The university says it has a financial reason for the sackings—that it employed too many staff when it had an influx of international students. Less international students are now enrolling so academics have to pay. But it is obvious that they have a hit list of academics they want to get rid of.

NTEU President Ted Clark told the protest the job losses were unnecessary because student numbers are actually rising. And an NTEU survey of 800-plus Melbourne University staff, done this year, warns of rising workloads stress, and declining morale.

Libby Buckingham, president of the student union, lent student support and commended the work of staff in keeping standards up, despite unbearable conditions.

Graham Willett, representative from the Workloads Committee, gave a few suggestions on how the university could save money—cut the Vice-Chancellor’s salary, and get rid of the new “Provost”. He also indicated that to win the jobs back we will need to take industrial action.

The university will not stop at the arts faculty, nor at only one round of sackings. Members were warned not to go to meetings with supervisors about their performance or other matters without a union delegation present. The jobs must be saved, they can be saved, and real action can save them.

By Melanie Lazarow, NTEU, University of Melbourne

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