The University of Wollongong has become the latest in a long list of Australian institutions to reject a jobs preservation deal from the academic union, saying it needs to plan for the long term fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgine Clarsen, the UOW branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union was disappointed the university had knocked back NTEU's Australian Universities Jobs Protection Framework.
"The union movement really worked very hard to make common ground with university management. Not all of our members were in favour of that but we wanted to try to work with our management to reduce the damage to people's jobs at UOW and across the sector," Ms Clarsen said.
"Our Vice Chancellor has shown that he doesn't wish to reveal the real state of UOW finances publicly and we fear that there are going to be a great many job losses at the University of Wollongong.
"We ask him again to work with us transparently to secure the future of the university and retain the expertise of both the administration and the teaching staff."
UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings informed staff of the university's decision on Tuesday.
"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.
"The proposed national framework offers some important short-term reductions in pay and conditions to help address the adverse financial impacts of the pandemic.
"However, 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.
"The framework restricts us from taking that view."
At least 10 other universities have already ruled out pursuing the deal, including Deakin, UNSW Sydney and Central Queensland University in recent days,
All have echoed UOW's concern that the framework would have provided only "short term" financial benefits, primarily from enforced pay cuts and reduced working hours.
The Australian Catholic University, University of Technology Sydney and Edith Cowan, Flinders, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney universities have also rejected the approach.
In announcing it would not sign up to the deal, Deakin flagged that 400 jobs - or three per cent of its workforce - would be cut.
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Prof Wellings said UOW must restore long-term financial sustainability while preparing for a post-COVID-19 world.
The sharp decline in international student enrolments and campus accommodation occupancy is having a significant financial impact on UOW, with an anticipated 2020 budget shortfall of about $90 million, which is expected to compound in future years.
"As we pursue long-term savings, we will be considering alternative approaches that allow us to protect jobs while positioning our organisation for the future," he said.
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