The buzz

Two infinity and beyond! Today we celebrate our 2nd birthday,” the Australian Space Agency tweets yesterday. No, that’s not in light-years.

No unity-ticket on Southern Cross U savings plan

The university wants staff to give up a pay rise the union says no to the whole proposal

Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker expects the university to be down $38m over 18 months and needs salary savings to claw back $5.8m.

He is asking staff to accept variations to the enterprise agreement, including; giving up this year’s 1.4 per cent pay rise and deferring the 2021 rise to 2022, when it will be 1.8 per cent (now 1.4 per cent), (plus $500 increase in base).

In return the VC puts, “on record my commitment to explore voluntary redundancies before any targeted job cuts.”

Professor Shoemaker says the EA variations will go to a staff vote next week and were, “negotiated in good faith and openly over the last month in meetings with both unions representing staff colleagues at Southern Cross.” (That’s the NTEU and CPSU).

But negotiating is not agreeing, at least not by the National Tertiary Education Union. “Management at SCU think negotiation means telling staff what they are willing to give us. Both unions came to the table with alternative suggestions, however management simply said no to all,” NTEU branch president Kate Mitchell says. The union is expected to recommend staff vote no.

Room with a view

“With access to Australia’s newest and tallest health building – Western Sydney is the perfect backdrop to complete your two-year degree and start your career in nursing,” Uni Sydney promotes a nursing masters. Views from wards will be such a disappointment.

Where cuts will come from at Uni Wollongong

Management and union went back to the drawing board for a new deal after staff voted against cuts. That didn’t work either

Last month staff voted against management supported and union opposed plans, to save money with temporary pay cuts over 12 or 18 months (CMM June 18).  So uni and unions searched for common ground on how to deal with the COVID 19 cash crunch– which Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings says they did not find.

Professor Wellings tells the university community, discussions with the National Tertiary Education Union were “constructive” but it appears there was not enough to build a deal on. And so, management has abandoned seeking savings via staff-backed variations to the enterprise agreement, “until there is a change in positions put by the NTEU.”

Professor Wellings says to maintain existing wages and conditions, which staff voted to keep, the university will need to abolish 200 jobs, apparently on top of the maximum 200 management said would have to go under the two pay-cut options.

“To manage with existing employment conditions continuing, we must now adjust the university’s overall employee costs within the constraint of the budget.” The VC adds, “the trigger to implement significant workplace change is well established,” under the university’s enterprise agreements.

As well as jobs, Professor Wellings adds that “to reach a financially sustainable position” the university will “examine a range of factors.” They include; * “prevalence” of low enrolment subjects * “aligning” courses to university/national priorities * prioritising “internationally significant” research and research performance, * workforce “efficiency” and costing activities previously cross-subsidised from the surplus “arising from international revenues. “

To all of which the National Tertiary Education Union replies; “The NTEU has been clear from the outset we are willing to negotiate an outcome that protects jobs and ensures the financial sustainability of the university. Given management has now walked away from negotiations and announced hundreds of job cuts, their commitment to these goals must be questioned.”


Charles Sturt U assessing its IT infrastructure

Learned readers noticed inquiries being made, so CMM asked what was happening

“As part of our operations we regularly assess our information technology infrastructure and investigate any anomalies in line with regulatory and governance processes. These processes are taken very seriously and with on-going due diligence. The university will not be making further comment at this time,” CSU stated yesterday.

Monash U staff back VC Gardner

Staff endorsed Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner’s cost-cuts plan with a thumping 89 per cent of the vote

What they backed: Professor Gardener put a not especially appealing COVID-19 response plan to the university community. Staff savings include, *freezing all increment progressions to July ’21, * deferring the Enterprise Agreement’s 2 per cent pay rise, due in December, to July next year, * redeploying staff, * staff reducing leave balances above 30 days and * an optional five-day leave purchase, (CMM June 11).

In return, Professor Gardner promised voluntary separations before compulsory redundancies and a range of protections for pay and conditions. The VC was up-front about exits, stating the university needs savings that translate to 467 positions but that the proposal would save 190 of them.

The agreement now goes to the Fair Work Commission for approval.

A big win for Gardner: Professor Gardner worked hard in an uncertain environment to convince staff that the proposal was the best way going to protect jobs. She was clearly conscious that a win was not assured – explaining its importance in all-staff message on the Friday night before the polls opened.

What else helped was sticking to the process, and terms, under the cuts for jobs accord she and three other VCs negotiated with the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union.

Before the all-staff vote NTEU members at Monash U approved the proposal with an 83 per cent majority – all the more impressive given the NTEU branch leadership stayed neutral (CMM June 22).

The turn-out in the all staff vote was 50 per cent.

There’s a lesson here: Three of the VCs (Gardner, Dewar-La Trobe U, den Hollander-UWA) who negotiated the accord with the NTEU now have savings plans staff accept. In contrast, Uni Melbourne and Uni Wollongong put savings proposals the union opposed to a staff vote and lost. A third, Brian Schmidt at ANU, won the vote for a union-opposed savings plan, but only just – with a yes vote of 50.46 per cent (CMM June 25).

Most university staff are not union members, but when it comes to protecting wages and conditions, they listen to the comrades.

All good things …

Four CRC’s are out of time

They all wound-up on Tuesday.

CRC CARE “prevent assess and clean-up environmental contamination” the $29m project ran from July 2011

CRC for Alertness, safety and productivity: $14.8M, founded on July 1 2013

Cancer Therapeutics CRC:$34m from July 2014

Rail Manufacturing CRC:  $31m from July 14

Uninspiringly important

 “TPB invites comment on proposed guidance for Board approved courses,” is not a headline to emblazon on a banner

It’s the Tax Practitioners Board that is doing the inviting and the comment it wants is on converting Board-approved courses on accountancy, law and GST/BAS into legislative instruments.  Think it does not matter? “The TPB regulates tax practitioners in order to protect consumers.”

The AIs have it

A Curtin U start-up increases campus security monitoring while eliminating overload


Perth-based, Curtin start-up, iCetana Limited (ASX:ICE) is going global with video analytics technology.

The company helps transform security control centres in organisations, with a dynamic live-monitoring surveillance system developed by Curtin University researchers, funded in part by the Australian Research Council. The research team was led by Svetha Venkatesh of Curtin’s Institute of Multi-Sensor Processing and Content Analysis.

The technology learns typical behaviour in busy environments, such as crowds, and can then report unusual activity.

In the education sector, iCetana already works with Curtin, Deakin and Swinburne universities and has just announced a contract with Canada’s Mount Royal University for campus security throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.

The company’s scalable solution directs camera operators to the most important or unusual events occurring at any given time, whether they are monitoring dozens or thousands of cameras.

ICetana estimates its AI tool, can almost completely eradicate video overload, while maintaining 100 per cent real-time proactive monitoring.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent