The gloves are off between Southern Cross University staff and the administration, with the union representing non-teaching staff accusing the vice-chancellor of financial mismanagement.
‘The CPSU [has] been told that debt will continue to increase into the tens of millions by the end of 2014 unless drastic cuts to courses are made, and cuts to professional staff jobs are made,’ Toni Ledgerwood, SCU branch president of the union, said yesterday.
She added that ‘a majority of jobs that will go will be our members, the professional staff who support the entire university membership’.
‘All of this was already occurring for a few years prior to any funding reductions by the Commonwealth government. The financial strife the university is in cannot be blamed on the federal government, but only on the financial management under the current VC.’
But vice-chancellor Professor Peter Lee told Echonetdaily financial problems were not isolated to SCU and that the administration had been actively keeping staff informed.
‘These are challenging times for the university sector as a whole,’ he told Echonetdaily yesterday.
‘We have been very open with staff about the financial situation facing the university. I have provided a number of briefings to staff, outlining the factors impacting on the budget. This includes the significant impact the changes in federal government funding will have on our bottom line,’ he added.
‘The university’s attraction to students remains strong, but we have not been immune to the sector downturn in international enrolments. We are committed to a growth strategy, including the introduction of new courses in areas of workforce need.’
Prof Lee said while the university’s revenue was continuing to grow, operating costs had risen sharply. Staff costs, he said, remained higher than the average of NSW universities.
The stoush has extended to the latest round of award negotiations, with the union accusing the administration of hiring an expensive retinue of lawyers to press its case.
‘The University has decided to pay costly lawyers to be their bargaining representatives for a new enterprise agreement, now the current agreement has expired. This is a disgusting waste of money and the CPSU will be writing to the NSW auditor-general asking for his intervention regarding this waste of public funds,’ Ms Ledgerwood said.
‘The University Council must immediately recommend that existing staff be allocated as the bargaining representatives for the University, as has been the case in previous years, and to sack the unnecessary and expensive lawyers.’
But Prof Lee described the appointment of lawyers as ‘comparable to the representation that full-time union officials provide to their members’.
‘The University notes it is in enterprise bargaining negotiations with the CPSU, and reserves the right to draw on professional IR expertise,’ he added.