The La Trobe branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has warned the university’s council that management failures mean there are now too few staff to manage grounds, maintain infrastructure and keep facilities ticking over.
“What we find particularly miserable is that this university has the largest campus in Australia, 267 hectares, something it promoted, marketed and boasted about in its 50 anniversary last year. Then it demolished the grounds and gardening team. There is now one lone gardener left,” the union claims.
According to the NTEU, low morale led 35 of 100 staff to take voluntary redundancy when the university offered it, costing a claimed $3.5m in separation payments and leaving remaining staff swamped by work. “Given the low classification levels of many ex-employees, for example, gardening staff, it is unlikely their work will be performed by external contractors for the same low cost or with the same dedication,” the union says, adding the council, “has an obligation to act where the health and safety of staff and the university’s reputation is at risk.”
Last night a university spokesperson told CMM: “the changes made within the university’s infrastructure and operations division were undertaken in accordance with our collective agreement. Departing staff volunteered to take up an offer of redundancy. We will continue to work with staff to address any unintended impacts of the change and encourage the union to utilise grievance processes outlined in the collective agreement.”