Staff and students attempt to protest over ANU cuts

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ANU staff and students stand in solidarity on Friday against the university’s new job cuts. Photo: Nathan Schmidt

STAFF that work across at least four ANU buildings have been told not to attend campus on a day that coincided with a union protest against the university.

The National Tertiary Education Union had encouraged students to gather around the Acton retail precinct located off University Avenue on Friday (April 30) to better support current and former staff members against fighting the decision to axe 467 jobs.

But the union’s ACT division secretary Cathy Day feared that a nearby fire on campus hours earlier would affect numbers of staff forced to work from home from turning up.

A demountable classroom that was in the vicinity of the Baldessin Precinct Building and the School of Art and Design was set ablaze on Friday morning, resulting in the administration sending out the request that was not intended to be mischievous over blocking the protest.

The university announced a week earlier a better-than-expected $162.4 million operating deficit for 2020 that has still affected the future of a large number of jobs.

It was $56.4 million less than earlier forecasts in a university recovery plan.

The transparent release of key financial results for its annual report was welcomed, but the union ahead of International Workers Day denounced the plan to continue further job cuts and a range of other measures amid a backdrop of improved in finances on campus.

“We call on the ANU to stop sacking people – even this week, the ANU announced more job cuts,” NTEU ANU branch president Simon Copland said. 

Can ANU guarantee there will be enough staff to service the number of students, when enrolment is higher than anticipated?

“We’re already overworked, with 10 per cent of non-casual staff gone already, plus hundreds of casual jobs.

“Continuing to cuts will only increase the stress on workers.”

Protesters spoke out against issues of the casualisation of the ANU workforce, excessive workloads, work health and safety concerns, postgraduate students forced to run tutorial classes for free and others being cut entirely from some courses.

The union said there were also concerns over leaking libraries, zoom classes of more than 100 students, the continued COVID-19 considerations with grading and the questionable decision by the university over buying a bus stop.

“We demand job security and an end to casualisation – genuine consultation,” Mr Copland said.

“Conditions that support our mental health, not deplete it.

“We demand an end to austerity cuts – here at ANU, we demand a university where we share information and encourage a flourishing learning environment.

“We need free, properly-funded public education.

“We fight for a university that students and staff deserve.”

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