University of Wollongong bosses have far from downplayed the challenging financial issues facing the institution.
But reports are "off the mark" that UOW management has warned staff that unless they accept large salary cuts and agree to significant job losses, it will only be able to operate for four to six more weeks.
UOW is facing a budget shortfall of about $90 million linked to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and its ongoing impact on student recruitment.
Despite having already cut $33 million in spending, a further $57 million in savings is being sought, mainly from reducing staff salaries, which management claim comprise 55 per cent of UOW's total expenditure.
That's why job and pay cuts feature heavily in options presented to staff during a survey which ended on Friday.
Results of said survey, slammed as "push poll rort" by academic and professional staff alike at UOW, are due any day.
But in the meantime the unions representing the staff in question have come up with an option where no staff lose their job.
Their respective unions, the National Tertiary Education Union and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU NSW) are now looking to pursue a solution like the one achieved in Western Sydney University.
The deal includes staff buying up to eight-days leave and three additional university shut-downs totalling seven days across the year.
In return the university will not run COVID-19 related redundancies. UOW will also stick to the casual staff budget as of March and continue fixed term staff whose work remains.
It is planned to year-end with a six-month extension if necessary.
A UOW spokesman would not comment on the specifics of the deal, saying only "UOW management has regular and ongoing consultations with representative unions (CPSU and NTEU) through its Joint Consultative Committee, and will continue to communicate and engage with staff directly".
But the spokesman was quick to defend UOW against reports made in a Michael West Media article, claiming it contained numerous inaccuracies and was misleading in its presentation.
"The article falsely claims that:; the University of Wollongong has warned staff that unless they accept large salary cuts and agree to significant job losses, it will only be able to operate for four to six more weeks.
"This is not true. No such a warning has been given to staff and the short timeframe proffered in this article has no basis in reality," the spokesman said.
He added the article also misled readers with inaccurate reporting of executive remuneration when it claimed: "while the number of executives on the payroll have dropped from 19 in 2009 to nine in 2020, executive pay is up by 50 per cent in the past 10 years."
UOW also "completely rejects claims that its investment in property, plant and equipment and expenditure on consultancy services and other contracts amounts to "reckless spending"."
The article came three days after about 200 staff members signed an open letter to Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, about voting for three options designed to secure the financial position of UOW in 2020 and beyond.
"You asked us to support either cutting wages and some staff positions (Options 1 and 2) or cutting many staff positions (Option 3). We, the signatories of this letter, regard these options as a false choice, and the 'consultative' process it is meant to embody as deeply flawed and unethical," the letter stated.
"We have voted for option 3. We have not done so because we approve of widespread redundancies. We have voted for option 3 as the only way to get to option 4 - where you sit down with unions and staff representatives and discuss alternative cost-saving measures, in good faith and with transparency over UOW finances and options."
Vicki Dodd, chair of the UOW branch of the CPSU NSW, labelled the [survey] "deplorable" and "nothing more than an attempt to rort the outcome".
Read more: How did it all go so wrong, so fast for UOW?
A UOW spokesman said the university had not yet received the survey analysis report from the external survey provider.
"Staff will be advised of results prior to any public announcement.
"Each university's financial situation is unique. The options put to staff were specifically created to sit within the constraints of the university's approved budget over the period from May 2020 to December 2022."
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