University of Wollongong staff are deeply concerned by the release of a new policy to increase research productivity they say could result in hundreds of academics shifted over to 'teaching only' positions.
But a UOW spokesperson said consultations had been extended to early 2022 to allow staff to comment on revisions to its Research Active Policy, which sets standards for research productivity across the institution.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) UOW branch president Professor Fiona Probyn Rapsey fears should the proposal proceed, it's going to apply retrospectively, covering the last five years of academic employment.
"All the work that we did in the last two years, including bearing the brunt of suddenly teaching from home, online, with the cancellation of sabbaticals - all this is now measured against higher expectations," Professor Probyn-Rapsey said.
"It's simply cruel to introduce this policy now.
"Staff at UOW are sick and tired of being thanked for the sacrifices we've made over the last two years and then management turns around and tells us that we all need to have been working a lot harder, with less time and pay, for the last five years or else face a research-less future.
"Do other industries tell their workers that they are going to be measured against new performance metrics that cover the past, not the future? It flies in the face of common sense."
Prof Probyn-Rapsey said this "smack in the face" came after a challenging 18 months.
"This is on top of other major changes at the university that have seen 185 jobs lost, casual positions not renewed, and administrative support diminished in core areas of teaching and research," she said.
"Academic staff are telling us that their workload has dramatically increased with the pressures of working from home and online learning, and their research has been severely disrupted
"Management's decision to release this policy that basically says - 'do more, and do it five years ago' is tone deaf to the realities of COVID's impacts."
Information provided to the Mercury shows that in the year from May 2020 to May 2021, the university's workforce reduced by about 200 full-time equivalent positions.
Seventy staff took voluntary redundancy and 136 took up UOW's voluntary early retirement scheme.
UOW state there was no forced redundancies at UOW during this period.
"UOW has sought to minimise job losses as much as possible in its response to the financial impact of COVID-19," UOW's chief operating officer Damien Israel said.
"UOW acted quickly and decisively to reduce non staff-related operating cost before initiating any staff-related cost savings.
"The conditions ahead for us remain challenging and uncertain. The whole university and wider community will need to continue pulling together to get through these extraordinary times.
'Reduced student numbers, combined with the transition to online course delivery, has altered UOW's reliance on casual staff and the work casual staff are being called on to perform."