University staff and students outraged at Transfield contract

UNIVERSITY of Newcastle staff and students have vowed to maintain pressure on the institution to walk away from its contract with Transfield, which has been linked to abuse allegations at immigration detention centres.

The university recently awarded Transfield an $88million five-year facilities management and maintenance services contract for its multiple campuses.

The company is also involved in the management of detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, where human rights abuses are alleged to have occurred.

About 60 protesters gathered outside the chancellery building on Thursday to voice concern about the university’s association with the company.

Newcastle University Students Association president Clare Swan said more protests were planned.

‘‘The Transfield contract does not start until October,’’ she said.

‘‘The university has made a serious error of judgment here and we do not believe it is unrealistic that it will walk away from the contract.’’

The university said Transfield was awarded the contract following a comprehensive assessment of key criteria including demonstrated capacity, breadth of services and support for local jobs.

‘‘Transfield Services is a significant local employer with over 1500 people employed in the region,’’ a  spokeswoman said. 

There are an estimated 2900 local employees engaged by Transfield Services’ subcontractors in the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions,’’ she said.

In addition to future protests, the students association is planning an information campaign across the university’s campuses.

Ms Swan said the National Union of Students and other universities had lent their support to the Newcastle campaign.

‘‘There is a lot of concern about what is happening at Newcastle,’’ she said. ‘‘Today is only the first step.’’


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