University union slams Newcastle University surplus amid job cuts

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) says the University of Newcastle has sacked hundreds of staff despite recording what it says is an “obscene” surplus.

The University of Newcastle’s 2021 annual report was tabled in parliament yesterday and reported a surplus of $185,270,000. 

NTEU Newcastle Branch President Dan Conway said they accept that most organisations would be proud to have achieved such a surplus, however coupled with hundreds of job cuts, it is a scathing indictment on University management.

“Management, including those on Council, need to answer for their actions of continually cutting away at staff and, in turn, cutting away at student learning,” Dan Conway said. 

“This surplus, and those for every year going back more than a decade, show that our University is among the most financially secure in the country,” he said.

While the NTEU accepts that Covid presented some uncertainty, Dan Conway said they also cautioned against knee jerk reactions, which have long-lasting, and sometimes irreparable effects. 

“Management, supported by the corporatised University Council, leveraged the ‘unique opportunity’ that they called Covid and sacked hundreds of staff despite admitting in as early as 2020, they knew this surplus was coming,” he said.

“UON Management will now move to present this as a one-off, that the funds are ‘restricted’, or that it is an unrealised ‘on paper profit’ to play down the University’s financial position.”

“These results vindicate our position. Our University was never under threat from Covid. It was, and remains however, under threat from management and successive federal governments who neglect our institutions.”

The NTEU said in preparation for the job cuts, university management told staff, “we’re all in this together.” University management asked staff to tighten their belts and forgo entitlements like pay rises.

“The hypocrisy involved here is brazen and deeply problematic. For an institution that should be setting an irreproachable standard in ethical operating, this level of bad faith, if not downright deceit, is unconscionable,” Dan Conway said. 

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