THE University of Newcastle has told staff it will save $10.8 million each year from proposed changes to its five divisions, the latest step in its organisational restructure.
UON discussed the proposed changes at staff forums on Thursday with employees in its academic; global engagement and partnerships; research and innovation; resources; and vice-chancellor's divisions.
Some units within the five divisions are not part of the change process.
Staff have been invited to make submissions - and can indicate interest in taking a voluntary separation package - up to the close of business on April 16.
UON said in its consultation paper it proposed the 843.9 full time equivalent people currently working across the divisions would be reduced to 809.3.
It said there were 211 affected or "disestablished" jobs. UON proposes the new structure will have 172.3 newly-created jobs.
"The financial implications expected as a consequence of this consultation paper are currently being considered in relation to the existing budget, the forward budget projections and the budget pressures faced by the university," it said in the paper.
"Should the divisional changes go ahead as proposed, we will reduce our costs by around $10.8 million annually.
"This includes around $5.5 million of salary savings, and $5.3 million of non-salary savings."
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NTEU Newcastle branch president Dan Conway said the change process had caused "great distress for many more than the 211 people directly affected, with repercussions and workload impacts to be felt across the university community".
"There is some good news for these staff though," he said. "It seems, and management has agreed, that every affected staff member in this change will, if they wish, continue employment with the university. Obviously, there is a decrease in positions.
"However, over 40 of the 211 affected roles are currently vacant. This means not a single staff member affected by the division change should be made forcibly redundant.
"Some staff, though, will be left with a choice: to either seek a higher-level role than they currently hold, or accept that of a lower level. While I appreciate this is not ideal, I am comforted no one should be forcibly left without a job."
A spokeswoman for UON said the restructure started last November with the realignment of five faculties into three colleges.
"Our divisions play a critical support role to our staff and students, encompassing services that support excellence and innovation in research and education, look after our people's wellbeing, health, and safety, and provide integral connection with industry, partners, and governing bodies," the spokesperson said.
"The changes that are being proposed in our divisions will align teams to our new college structures, and ensure we're organised efficiently to deliver on the initiatives of our Looking Ahead Strategic Plan."
The spokeswoman said UON was taking measures to address matters of financial sustainability driven by historical factors, such as the federal government's funding freeze in 2017, and current ones, such as the contraction of the international student education market due to COVID-19.
"This has compounded the impacts of the changes to public funding," she said. "Our first priority is always to find savings by making changes that lower our operating costs and result in our university being financially sustainable.
"Sadly, we will not be able to completely avoid staffing impacts. While the 'net effect' on jobs for our staff will be small, relative to other organisations, we acknowledge that this is an unsettling time for our staff, as we adapt our organisation for the future."
Mr Conway said the NTEU continued to resist management's justification for change, "that the core business is operating at a loss".
"Despite requesting for many months a financial briefing on exactly how management chops the numbers to suit their narrative, we haven't received one," he said.
"Therefore, our view remains, there is no need to over-complicate it. The University of Newcastle is in a highly secure position, having made sector-leading surpluses for over a decade thanks in part to the extensive investment portfolio that staff have created through surpluses in years past.
"These changes are all about one thing - larger surpluses at the expense of staff. No matter how you spin it - it has nothing to do with making an actual loss."
A forum will be held in May to present the divisions proposal paper, which will be given to the Vice-Chancellor for determination. Implementation will start from June.
Consultation for schools will start March 30.
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