THE National Tertiary Education Union Newcastle branch has launched a petition calling on the University of Newcastle to pause its restructure immediately, saying proposed job cuts threaten its existence as a "world-class research-intensive academic institution".
Branch president Dan Conway said the union had received a strong response to the petition.
"Staff are telling us after much 'consultation' that their concerns are not being taken seriously, or that the vast majority have had little, if any, input into decision making," Mr Conway said.
"If the university is in real financial trouble, as management claim, then management must stand with us to push against the funding environment, rather than seek their next KPI."
He said community members - including those who had attended UON or expected descendants to attend - should engage with the petition too.
"There is no doubt that these changes compromise the quality of education and research moving forward.
"In some cases entire disciplines are being decimated on the basis of rumour and innuendo. It is just not acceptable to treat the university community, or the institution itself, with such contempt."
The branch wrote on the petition that it was intended to reflect a "united rejection" of the restructure, which it said would directly affect almost 400 permanent staff and "countless" casual staff, as well as indirectly affect hundreds of others.
It said it did not believe UON was in a financial crisis; management had not been transparent about UON's financial situation; and predictions appeared to be based "on a flawed premise".
It said management had failed to notify staff that adopting the Looking Ahead Strategic Plan would lead to job cuts and the changes weren't consistent with the plans' goals.
It said UON hadn't assessed the impact the proposed job cuts would have on staff workload and UON's research capability.
"In light of the above, we are convinced this process undermines our capacity to deliver our 'core business' of teaching and research into the future," the petition said.
"Consequently, the proposed staff cuts threaten the very existence of the UON as a world-class research-intensive academic institution."
The petition calls on the Vice-Chancellor and University Council for six things, starting with pausing the change process immediately and openly rejecting "the funding environment created by successive federal governments, rather than be complicit in it".
It calls on them to adopt a "wide-ranging open and independent strategic review of the true state of the university finances" and the impact proposed changes will have on the university's financial position, staff workload, and teaching and research capability beyond the immediate future; and give greater consideration to managing the financial situation through gradual staffing changes.
It calls on them to establish a consultative approach for change and put out a call for a general round of voluntary separations before progressing with any change process.
UON was contacted for comment.