ANU: broker than it looks, says VC

Staff are voting on management’s plan to drop a scheduled pay-rise and accept a VR scheme (CMM May 28, June 10).

It looks like the vote will be decided by how broke staff think the university is.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which opposes the proposal, argues, in considerable detail that the university is not in as bad shape as some and asks why it has not released the figures that are the basis of calls for cuts.

“The pay freeze involves staff helping to pay for the 2020 cash flow squeeze. We can’t grasp the extent of this issue without a clear estimate of this liquidity problem, or without more contextual information about the ANU’s accrued wealth,” a union brief circulating on campus states.

Yesterday Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt responded to “viewpoints” staff are hearing.

Yes, the VC said, ANU has a $1.8bn reserve, but $629m will go to operating costs this year and $1.2bn is committed, “it is not ours to spend.”

As to salary savings, Professor Schmidt warns ANU, “will need to achieve at least $70 million per year for 2021 and beyond (a 10 per cent decrease from 2020).”

The 2 per cent pay rise he wants staff to agree to defer represents $13.5m a year, which “will allow us to employ more staff next year than otherwise,” But as to how many, the vice chancellor helpfully advises, “the number of staff who will earn the saved $13.5m. And that is guaranteed.”

I wish the rumours were true and we had more money to help us through this unprecedented time. But let me be clear, even as we look at a bleak financial situation: saving jobs is my priority and I will do anything I can to keep as many staff as possible.”