Compromise reached with Union as ‘working party’ set up to ‘review’ staff cuts

Staff cuts to go ahead but exact status of SoM staff uncertain for several more months

Union backs down from threats of industrial action or any future protests

As planned curriculum changes at the School of Music are set in motion, the University appears to have forced the National Tertiary Education Union into a compromise over another contentious element of the proposed restructure, the plan to cut 13 full-time academic staff. A working party comprising representatives from Chancelry and the National Tertiary Education Union has been convened to “help plan and review transitional staffing arrangements”.

According to a joint statement from Ron Watts, Director of Human Resources, and Stephen Darwin, ACT Secretary of the NTEU, emailed to all ANU Staff, the working party will “allow us to jointly resolve and develop the detail of the likely actual staffing needs and the specific impacts and timing for staff consistent with the overarching provisions of the ANU Enterprise Agreement 2010-2012”.

The working party has been tasked to develop transition mechanisms as some staff move into contract or sessional employment.

The joint statement recognises that “staffing aspects around the changed working arrangements are complex and [could] have potentially significant implications”. It emphasised that it was “important we exhaust all options to minimise adverse aspects on staff”.

However, when contacted by Woroni, Mr Darwin appeared resigned to the University’s decision to go ahead with the restructure. He said the working party would “only marginally” change the number of job losses and that the NTEU would “not be pursuing further industrial action”.

The compromise was a “tremendously difficult decision but we had no choice”, he said. “This is to accommodate the change, rather than stopping them.”

“It forces Chancelry to talk to staff – who would otherwise have been excluded from the debate.  But it still doesn’t undo the damage,” said Mr Darwin.

The future for School of Music staff still remains unclear as the process is set to take “many months”, a move likely to disappoint members of the ANU and ACT arts community who have strongly argued for an immediate back down on any proposed cuts.

Earlier last month, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young, announced the final plans for the School of Music, which included restricting its degree program offerings and shedding 13 academic staff and 2 administrative staff. He also announced that certain elements of the initially proposed plan had been taken out following the consultation period, including one hour a week of one-to-one performance tuition for all students. In protest, the NTEU’s Stephen Darwin has vowed to begin “immediate” industrial action.

It followed a protracted conflict between School of Music staff and students and Chancelry since the outgoing Head of School, Professor Adrian Walter, and Deputy vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, announced planned changes to the School of Music in response to “funding pressures” in May. The ANU currently subsidises School of Music losses of up to $2.9 million a year.