Sackings at the Australian National University
Ian Young, the Australian National University’s Vice-Chancellor, announced today eh would sack all 32 staff at the School of Music. The new school would have only 20 staff and sacked staff could if they wanted re-apply for their jobs.
A month ago Young announced plans to sack 150 staff over a false Budget crisis. The surplus was only $14 million so he wanted consultation on how to get rid of these staff. An angry mass meeting of unionists rejected his 150 job sackings unanimously. Not quite true. One person out of the over 200 there did vote against.
A rally against the cuts on 26 April saw around 300 staff and about 50 students again condemn the proposed job losses and called on the VC to withdraw the threat of involuntary redundancy.
On Monday 30 April Young said that he was not going ahead with the plan. A more careful reading of his comments indicated however that in fact he was to spread the losses over 2 years through natural attrition and voluntary separations, but involuntary redundancies would be used if necessary (as a last resort in managerial speak).
A number of staff and students were comforted by what seemed a backdown in Young’s part. It wasn’t, as the mass sackings at the School of Music show.
There is only one way to save the 32 threatened jobs – industrial action. The VC has shown himself to be an aggressive HR Nicholls type waging a war on his staff . Only stopping work has any chance of stopping Chainsaw Young. Stop work to stop Young.
Unionist as a matter of principle support our colleagues in the School of Music. but there are also very pragmatic reasons for supporting them.
Who is next?
And if he can get away with this ‘restructuring’ (more management speak) he will be in a strong position to impose a rotten Enterprise Agreement on the staff, one with lower wages, more precarious employment and increased indicators of ‘worth’ to do, for academics, with more publications, more students, more grants and super hero teaching status.
There is no basis for these sackings. The Music School is a highly intense teaching environment producing great musicians..
And the VC is now saying they are not part of the 2 year repositioning , the forerunner of which was 150 sackings. So there looks as if there are two strategies from Young – one to sack staff in certain areas like Music and the other to get rid of 150 staff through natural attrition and involuntary redundancy if needed.
Universities have become institutions of neoliberalism – both its intellectual agent and often the research arm for big business, and in terms of the profit model being imposed on Universities.
Thus at ANU the surplus is ‘only’ 14 million (moan and complain) while at UC the surplus is (drum roll, trumpets blazing) a fantastic $ 9 million.
Both VCs judge the worth of their University by its surplus, and of course its ranking compared to other Universities who are doing the same thing – sacking staff, or moving them sideways into teaching only roles like a Polytechnic or a merger with the Canberra Institute of Technology (two options the University of Canberra VC pursued vigorously) to improve publication records and so improve the ranking.
The BLF had a saying ‘If you don’t fight you lose.’ That is as true of Universities as it is of building sites.
The time to fight back against the cutters and destroyers of quality education is now.
For students that means mass meetings and rallies and whatever may come out of that. For staff it means strikes.
Stop work to save jobs. Stop work for quality education. Stop work to stop Young.