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Curtin University
Vice-Chancellor
Note to staff

11 November 2016

 
 

Recent media reports

Media are today running a story claiming there will be job and wage cuts at the University, which may give the impression that Curtin is facing a crisis.  This is not the case.

Like most organisations, Curtin is managing some budget pressures including a slowing WA economy, relatively low growth in student numbers, and staff costs increasing faster than revenue.  However, we remain in a sound financial position, staff have received generous wage increases over the past three years and no cuts to salaries are planned.

The University is in Enterprise Agreement negotiations and the salary offer is 3.5 per cent over three years.  This aligns salary increases with the indexation we receive on our Commonwealth funding grant.  There are some economies to be made and some staff will leave the University as a result of contracts not being renewed or a small number of area restructures.

The number of staff affected is not final as each area is independently addressing budget issues, however between 100 and 150 staff are expected to leave the University.  Curtin has over 4000 full time equivalent staff.

I acknowledge that this process is challenging and I thank you for your support and commitment to the University.  If you have any questions please contact your area manager or email Ian Jackson, Director of People and Culture, or Ian Callahan, Chief Operating Officer.  I remind all staff that Counselling Services are available to anyone who feels in need of support.

 

 

 
 
  1. Steven Bottomley November 11, 2016 8:25pm

    Dear Vice Chancellor

    How about this for an idea: Remove one senior executive receiving about $500,000 (plus bonuses?) and keep 10 staff each earning about $50,000?

    With a bit more creative thinking I’m sure that Curtin could save the other 90 to 140 staff from unemployment months before Christmas. After all Curtin is known for its creativity and innovation!

  2. Richard Olszewski November 12, 2016 8:18am

    Hi Steven! Well said. I think that University. Is “gasping for air” missmaneged

  3. Cynthia Verspaget November 12, 2016 9:19am

    “There are some economies to be made and some staff will leave the University as a result of contracts not being renewed or a small number of area restructures.”

    Sorry, but that is “job cuts”.

  4. Richard Olszewski November 12, 2016 12:06pm

    I do encourage you to not stay behind your desk and go forward to say what you think

  5. Sky Croeser November 14, 2016 10:07am

    I’m so disappointed in how the university has managed this. When I returned to Curtin, in the wake of EQUIP, it seemed like the university had gone through a painful restructure that nevertheless had an underlying logic (shifting the focus further towards research). Curtin seemed committed to its Reconciliation goals, to supporting diversity and staff from marginalised groups, and to building a better culture.

    The Curtin values are (at least as stated on the website) integrity, respect, courage, excellence, and impact.

    When it comes to integrity, it really doesn’t feel like Curtin has engedered “trust through openness, honesty and consistency”. The only public acknowledgement we’ve had about what’s going on, so far, is this brief message, which seems to have been spurred by media reports. Is this what it looks like to “lead by example and with due care”? And who, within Curtin university’s upper management (not those with less power and responsibility who often have to take the fall), will be accountable for the failures in forecasting that meant this came out of nowhere?

    When it comes to respect, the failure to communicate openly around the redundancies doesn’t seem in keeping with the claim that Curtin will act professionally “with courtesy and consideration of others”. How respectful of teaching staff is it to act like their jobs can easily be filled in by research staff, without pedagogical training? What avenues have we been given to provide constructive feedback and be listened to? And given that fixed-term contracts and sessional work tends to be disproportionately held by women, early career researchers, and others in vulnerable positions with caring responsibilities, does this “Value diversity and promote equity and inclusion”?

    Is Curtin management having the courage to “Take ownership of decisions and learn from experience”? Is this what it looks like when Curtin management lives their values and “upholds signature behaviours”? What other alternatives, including creative alternatives (like cutting top salaries in order to decrease inequality within the university and save jobs) has Curtin considered?

    How can Curtin research staff be excellent when they’re expected to pick up a massive teaching shortfall? How can Curtin teaching staff be excellent when they’re permanently insecure, undervalued, and treated as if their skills are instantly replaceable? How can our students be excellent without proper support? (And, after EQUIP separated out teaching and research, how can Curtin pretend that just asking research staff to do more teaching isn’t meaningful?)

    I had a brief period of being proud to be working at Curtin. I felt cautiously optimistic about its commitment to diversity, to building a better culture, to doing things differently, to being inspiring and supporting change. I am so sad and disappointed to see that those hopes were unfounded. Not just for myself, but for all the amazing colleagues commit to this institution, and for all the wonderful students who’ve benefited from our teaching and gone out into the world impressed by Curtin.

    I wanted to believe Curtin could be better than this.

    • Samantha Owen November 16, 2016 4:50pm

      Thank you for this sky.

      I agree with you and I am deeply concerned about how programs will continue to be delivered and high quality teaching standards maintained.

      I would also question the distance management practices place between Curtin values in philosophy and in practice.

      Finally, I too share the disappointment that Curtin is not better than this. We provide it with the capability to be so.

    • Jane Armstrong November 22, 2016 10:50am

      Sky, thank you so much for articulating some of the problems associated with this decision.

      Ironically, I notice that my productivity is down because we are all dealing with feelings of devastation which interfere with the concentration required to fulfill our work requirements.

  6. Alexandra Stevens November 14, 2016 10:34am

    I agree wholeheartedly with Sky.

    Curtin is losing passionate young teaching academics with excellent research credentials, these people have unique skill sets and are the future of the university. This isn’t trimming the fat, it’s gouging into the flesh. In the last year two of my colleagues, with little warning, have not had their contracts renewed and two more are at risk of the same fate. If that happens then a whole discipline will have all but disappeared from Curtin. It is incredibly disheartening to see.

    This is something that was potentially foreseeable, with a boom there is always a bust, and yet, no one seems to have considered this.

  7. Jane Brown November 14, 2016 11:14am

    ‘I remind all staff that Counselling Services are available to anyone who feels in need of support….’
    Following a recent change process of my area, counselling advised me in October that they are fully booked out for at least a month and to try the outsourced external provider OPTUM. If you are feeling stressed, please take action to maintain your work/life balance!

    • Richard Olszewski November 14, 2016 7:08pm

      Hi Jane ! I may try Santa Claus he make sense

  8. Suvendrini Perera November 15, 2016 7:34am

    Sky Croeser makes a necessary and valid point when she notes that the current cost cutting measures impact disproportionately on vulnerable staff, often younger women and early career academics. I am not sure to what extent questions of equity are taken into account when decisions are made to terminate contracts: they certainly should be at the forefront for a university committed, as I believe Curtin to be, to promoting social justice. As a senior academic, I feel a great sense of lost at the forced departure of my bright and committed colleagues who made such a great commitment to the core business of any university: teaching our undergraduates. Intended or otherwise, the message that these staff are the most expendable members of the institution diminishes us all.

  9. Ian Jackson November 15, 2016 2:53pm

    Thanks for all the feedback on both the VC’s Note to Staff and Yammer. To reassure those of you who have posted comments, or are concerned, please be assured there is no Curtin-wide approach to non-renewals of contracts, or redundancies; we are going through the same process as we have for many years as a response to the annual budgetary cycle, with line managers having accountability as to how they manage their school or area budgets. Unfortunately in some areas this means a reduction in staff, although in most areas this number is very small.

    In response to comments about the proposed pay increases, Curtin staff have enjoyed generous pay rises over recent years, but that trajectory is now slowing as the University deals with financial challenges. Like all universities we need to continually adjust our profile to respond to the environment in which we operate. We should all be aware that the economy is not good at present, with many universities and other organisations facing much harder decisions than we are.

    It is important to understand that we have almost 4000 contracts ending over the next three months and only a small percentage of these are unlikely to be renewed – probably around 150. However, while the numbers may be small, I recognise this is a really difficult time for anyone affected by the cutbacks, and for their workmates. It is always sad to see valued colleagues leave in such circumstances.

    I want to assure you there is support available to those in our community who have been affected. Anyone feeling they are dealing with personal crisis can access our counselling team almost immediately, or within a week or so if the circumstances are not critical. I think you will find this is a lot faster than many other organisations can provide. If someone is willing to see our external provider OPTUM can usually organise an appointment within a week.

    The decisions that have been made are designed to ensure that Curtin remains a viable & healthy institution and able to offer opportunities to our people into the future. I do suggest that if you have any queries you ask to meet with your line manager or Head of School, or PVC. Separately there are also several meetings planned to discuss the EBA coming up in the next few weeks so that will also give you an opportunity to discuss any issues you have concerns about with either the Provost or Chief Operating Officer.

    Kind regards

    Ian

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