The University of Wollongong (UOW) says it will consider alternative solutions to the tertiary union’s national Jobs Protection Framework to address the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Tertiary Education Union’s framework would allow universities in severe financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 temporarily cut wages up to 15%. However, it has produced a mixed reaction from the tertiary sector.
Earlier this week, Deakin University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin told staff that the University would pursue its own response, which includes axing 400 jobs.
Today, UOW joined nine other universities – including the Australian Catholic University, UNSW Sydney and Central Queensland University (CQU) – who have refused signing up to the union’s framework.
‘We must plan for a longer period of time’
UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, said the decision was made after considering the proposed framework “in light of UOW’s unique circumstances, including its immediate challenges and long-term strategic outlook”.
“The University’s leadership team has carefully analysed the NTEU’s Australian Universities Jobs Protection Framework and, while we greatly appreciate the efforts of all those involved and share some of their objectives, the University will not be a signatory to this memorandum,” Professor Wellings said.
“The framework does not offer the best pathway to confront the challenges we must deal with to prepare UOW for a sustainable future”.
Professor Wellings said that while the proposed national framework offers some important short-term reductions in pay and conditions for staff to help address the adverse financial impacts of the pandemic, it is not a long-term solution.
“We must plan for a longer period of time, given the scale of the recession and its likely impact on international student numbers in 2021 and 2022,” he said.
“The framework restricts us from taking that view”.
University budgets continuing to take huge hit
In March, the Federal Government’s global reputation taskforce warned that Australia’s education sector faces an $8bn hit from the spread of COVID-19.
Sydney University recently announced a freeze on spending to manage a budget shortfall triggered by the virus’ outbreak.
Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said current estimates predict that the University is facing a shortfall of more than $200m as part of its $2.8bn budget.
Professor Wellings said the sharp decline in international student enrolments and campus accommodation occupancy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant financial impact on UOW, with an anticipated 2020 budget shortfall of about $90m, which is expected to compound in future years.