In the midst of global panic last month, the University of Sydney’s Vice-Chancellor announced shock budget cuts of up to 9 per cent because of a shortfall of $100 million in investment income.

The University of Sydney is immensely rich with significant income from private endowments made over the past 150 years on top of normal income.

The NTEU expressed surprise because the University’s operating surplus for teaching and research activities alone stood at $53 million in June this year.

The Chief Operating Officer responded by giving all staff briefings to persuade us the university needed to put aside a 15 per cent savings against uncertainty. This is about twice the surplus which other NSW universities usually run.

We know where the surplus has come from: the high use of short term and casual staff especially in teaching; and from contracting out and restructuring essential services like security, cleaning and major repairs which have seen our buildings deteriorate. If there were a serious shortfall the union’s position is that the University should demand that the Rudd government cover it.

This is all aimed at getting the union to accept a 4 per cent pay increase in 2009 and to put off enterprise bargaining for twelve months.

Our claim is for a 9 per cent increase for each of the next three years and we want action to address the inequity of high use of casual workers and the restoration of conditions which the Howard government wrested from the universities by its special AWA arrangements for our sector.

Staff are angry at the crude attempt to frighten us into accepting an effective pay cut with a rise less than the inflation rate (5 per cent).  On the contrary the NTEU branch voted to demand that the university begin bargaining seriously and repeated our demand for 9 per cent increase in 2009.

By Anne Picot

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