No “backdown”, says School of Music staff

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Vice chancellor Ian Young.
ANU Music staff have greeted stories of a “backdown” over staff cuts by the vice chancellor, Ian Young, with disappointment and scepticism.

A senior faculty member who preferred not to be named said staff were afraid the general public might suppose from headlines that the ANU had totally reversed its position on cuts and curriculum changes at the school.

“The reality is that they’ll still get rid of 10 jobs…it just sounds slightly more legal,” the staff member said.

In a formal statement issued yesterday, Prof Young said: “I understand The NTEU [National Tertiary Education Union ] have made some comments regarding changes to the Change Management proposal. I would like to clarify the matter. The University has negotiated some minor changes to language, and replaced a section. The proposal is no different, perhaps just more clearly expressed.”

An email also went out to affected staff after the University had received the dispute notification from the NTEU relating to the proposed transition arrangements for staff.

The email said: “While the University does not concede that the ANU Enterprise Agreement has been breached, the University accepts that some staff may have concerns regarding the wording of the change proposal as it relates to declaring positions vacant. It is also noted that some staff think that this has occurred now, which it has not. Any staffing changes that might arise will be finalised once the outcome of the overall consultation process has been concluded.

“Acknowledging these concerns, the University has agreed to withdraw this section of the proposal and replace with wording with: ‘Subject to the outcome of the consultation process, any impacts on staff will be managed in accordance with the provisions of the Enterprise Agreement.’

“Subject to the conclusion of the consultation process, if the revised curriculum is implemented, the University will seek expressions of interest from existing staff for positions within the proposed staffing profile. Thereafter the ANU Enterprise Agreement provisions relating to job security, redeployment and redundancy will be applied.”

National Tertiary Education Union ACT Division secretary, Stephen Darwin, today described the statements as “buried in euphemism”.

Staffing matters, he added, had, from the outset, been handled inappropriately and had “no basis in law”.

The announcement by deputy vice-chancellor (academic) Prof Marnie Hughes-Warrington at a media conference on May 3 of staff spills had contravened and pre-empted normal practice of consultation with staff, Darwin said.

In his view, any suggestions that the university had backed down under pressure were inflated. Additionally, the way the institution had handled the matter “lowers confidence in the proposed new music curriculum”.

One positive aspect of the small changes was that they had “put a floor under people on staff”, as the university would now be required to demonstrate to any fair work tribunal that individual staff are redundant or redeploy them elsewhere.

Darwin said the ANU’s initial promise on May 3 that “full entitlements” would be paid to staff were vague and insubstantial, causing confusion among staff “whose lives have been thrown into turmoil”.

Describing the campus demonstration yesterday as “a euphoric and fantastic day” in the face of “cowardly behaviour by the University”, he said the show of support gave the union a plank which he would “mercilessly exploit”.

It was probable, he said, that  “curriculum changes would prove to be just an excuse for cost-cutting”.

As for the likelihood of a positive outcome, there was no popping of champagne corks at the School of Music.

Late last night as staff opened their emails, the common reaction expressed to “CityNews” was that even if true, the announcement made no difference.

Ten staff would go, one-to-one teaching would be gone and the present practical curriculum would be ravaged.

Composition lecturer Jim Cotter summed it up: “It feels like a fait accompli.”

At the barricades, ANU protestors

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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