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Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 15:53:47 -0700
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: [PEN-L:12326] ANU Struggle (fwd)
Rick Kuhn, at Australian National University

ANU Struggle

From Rick Kuhn, Australian National University
15 September 1997

Arts Faculty academics are banning teaching for the whole of next week. There will also be a two day strike in solidarity by the whole of the union (which covers academic and most general staff) on campus. So the campaign is going well. There has also been some statements by eminent venerable academics with ANU associations who have condemned the cuts. Management are supposed to come up with a new plan for Arts in late October.

What follows is the latest union leaflet distributed here. I drafted it. If you want the pretty version I can send it as a Word for Windows email attachment.

All the best


Why we're striking against job cuts

The flaws in ANU management's plans to eliminate jobs, departments, research facilities and courses are becoming clearer to a wide range of people, not just staff at ANU. Eminent figures, including Sir Mark Oliphant and Professor Frank Fenner (whose name is on Fenner Hall) have condemned the cuts. The Vice-Chancellor wants to eliminate 20% of the Arts Faculty. Emeritus Professor Bernhard Neumann, a member of the Australian Academy of Science, has asked "Arts is at the heart of a university, if you cut out the heart, what life remains?".

The Division of Archaeology"Natural History in RSPAS is being abolished, along with the Archives of Business"Labour History (Noel Butlin Archives) and the Economic History Department in RSSS. The Archive is a national resource and it is a privilege for the ANU to house it. "Disposing" of the Archive can only undermine the ANU's national and international reputation. The same goes for the vandalising of Archaeology and Natural History, which has a world-wide reputation for excellence in research.

No financial justification

Robbing ANU workers of their livelihoods, and robbing students of supervisors and courses, can't be justified on academic grounds. But it isn't even financially justifiable. On the income side the ANU has:
  • a $46 million boost to ANU revenue this year, thanks to a refund from its Commonwealth Superannuation Reserve Account;
  • further tens of millions of dollars from selling off University-owned housing;
  • saved $2 million alone through renegotiated electricity tariffs.
How much of this money is being allocated to saving jobs, skills or intellectual resources? None.

On the expenditure side:

  • $5.5 million is going to a new building to house the MBA and other programs (with its long line of credit from central administration, despite its financial losses);
  • tens of millions of dollars are being squirreled away for the indefinite future in the "Endowment for Excellence".

Instead of using the money to employ committed and capable staff today and to preserve existing excellence, management want to put it aside for indefinite future purposes. The VC can't see the irony. Unfortunately, the laugh is on us.

Do we deserve punishment?

Management argues that the areas being cut deserve it. They've accused Arts of being profligate in its spending. But the disparity between DEETYA's student funding formula and the way money is allocated within the ANU means that Arts has been cross-subsidising other Faculties (apart from Economics) to the tune of around $700,000 a year for five years. Between 1995 and 1998 Arts will already have lost about forty academic positions, through retirements, through "natural" attrition (read non-renewal of contracts) and through "voluntary""" (read not being given any other choice) redundancies. The current cuts are on top of these.

Last year the History Department made three new appointments. This year it is supposed to get rid of three positions. Senior University managers approved those appointments. The problem isn't the people working in the Faculty, but the way it and the University have been managed.

As for the Noel Butlin Archives, of course they don't make money. But they do help us understand the nature of Australian society and the development of both trade unions and business in Australia. The changes in RSSS and RSPAS aren't about money, either. These changes are being made because the research schools are being focused on providing advice for government, and naturally, archaeology is way down on the list of government priorities. Staff are being made involuntarily redundant so that the ANU can tell the Federal government what it wants to hear about the state of the nation.

Who's next?

Management now appears to be saying that there may only be a few other involuntary redundancies in the Faculties outside Arts this year. But they have proved that their guarantees can't be trusted. The situation in a number of research schools is still unclear. But if the Vice-Chancellor is successful in picking off Arts and sections of RSSS and RSPAS this year, then no jobs or areas are safe.

Given management's track record, we can expect them to shift priorities again, depending on Amanda Vanstone's latest fad. That will mean further raids on other areas of the University. If an area is alleged to have financial problems then, like Arts, it too will be made to sack people, cover the costs of redundancy payments and get back into the black in a couple of years. The longer term prospects for enrolments, let alone the intrinsic value of its activities, won't be considered at all.

Are there alternatives to striking?

The National Tertiary Education Union has been making representations to management about the threatened cuts for months. So have staff members in the areas being cut. The Vice-Chancellor and his assistants have consistently ignored us. We have also been in touch with sympathetic members of Council, ANU's governing body. But the majority of Council members have unquestioningly followed where Deane Terrell has led. Student and staff representatives are in a small minority.

The NTEU has widely publicised the vandalism involved in the Vice-Chancellor's priorities in the press. Other groups inside and outside the University have also started serious media campaigns against the cuts as well. Students and staff have demonstrated against the cuts - around 1000 people participated in the rally of 27 August. And NTEU members have held a series of stopwork meetings and a week of rolling stoppages.

Because management has still not budged, we either have to give up on a serious campaign or escalate it. NTEU members in the Arts Faculty have decided to ban teaching for a week from Monday 15 September, risking the loss of a week's pay. On 9 September a well-publicised campus-wide union meeting voted overwhelmingly to back them up with a two-day strike on 17 and 18 September.

Without our labour the University cannot function normally. The industrial action makes it clear that management in the University is incapable of managing effectively, and has lost the trust, support and loyalty of staff. It puts pressure on them to draw back from the most serious aspect of their inability to manage: the decisions to abolish large numbers of staff positions.

Help make the industrial action successful: persuade other ANU workers, inside and outside the NTEU, to join in; send protest letters to the Vice-Chancellor (Prof. D. Terrell, ANU ACT 0200); and participate on the picket lines. Don't let management steal our jobs from us, and an educational future from students.

Department of Political Science
Australian National University
ACT 0200

email Rick.Kuhn@anu.edu.au