Documents received under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed information into the temporary appointment of UniLodge at Burton and Garran Hall.
Starting November last year, UniLodge have been providing staff for reception services in Burton and Garran Hall including front desk operations, facilities management, room allocations and departures, student cleaning, and day-to-day cleaning requirements. The ANU has retained other administrative roles in higher management, including the Head of Hall.
This hybrid operational agreement allows UniLodge to work alongside ANU employees, with the accommodation service continuing to provide staffing until the end of this year.
The documents reveal the appointment was made because of the significant staff turnover at the hall over the past two to three years. One of the reasons for this high “churn rate” was junior staff at Burton and Garran finding higher paying roles elsewhere at the University and subsequently taking promotions. Junior residential staff are employed as an ANU 2/3 or 4, equating to pay of between $58,400 and $75,843 a year.
The documents also note the high turnover in Heads of Hall, which created uncertainty in management. The Head of Hall provides administrative support to the Hall and pastoral care for residents. However, UniLodge staffing currently does not extend to the Head of Hall and senior roles.
Prior to the UniLodge takeover, only 3 of 11 positions (excluding casual roles) were filled. An internal ANU memo acknowledged “many student complaints about lack of staffing, and availability of staff,” while also referencing the “additional workload” existing staff were absorbing due to the ongoing staff vacancies.
The documents claim that over the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple lockdowns placed stress on staff whose roles required extensive student interaction, such as reception. Students residing at Burton and Garran Hall at the time told Woroni that inaccessibility to proper residential staff created uncertainty and mental distress.
Despite this, there was no residential consultation prior to the employment of UniLodge. Senior Residents and the wider community were informed after the decision was finalised.
At the time, UniLodge had an existing contract with the University, however, this agreement marked the introduction of UniLodge to a previously exclusively ANU-run residential hall. An ANU spokesperson explained, “ANU engages UniLodge to provide a range of services across its residential halls and lodges.”
The decision, however, was made amidst the preparation of a class action suit against UniLodge, led by former student leaders and former UniLodge Residential Advisors across multiple universities, accusing the accommodation provider of the underpayment of wages. Staff at Unilodge were paid under the Hospitality Award, which has a lower pay rate than the Higher Education Award. Unilodge reception also suffers from accusations of poor customer service.
It is in Woroni’s understanding that the class action suit did not progress past the preparation stage at that time. The ANU spokesperson maintained, “UniLodge…is not engaged in any class proceedings, nor are they aware of any current wage disputes. ANU is not aware of any proceedings of this nature.”
The documents stated that no ANU personnel previously working at the Hall were made redundant, insisting that the temporary arrangement was not pursued for financial reduction reasons. However, three ANU personnel were impacted by the decision. Two of these individuals were temporarily transferred to the Accommodation Central Services team. It is unclear how the third personnel member was impacted.
As the end of the year, and UniLodge’s contract, draws near, Woroni will continue to cover staffing changes in Burton and Garran Hall.
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