University of Newcastle in New bust up with union over jobs

THE University of Newcastle says “The World Needs New”. Staff say they need to know whether they still have jobs.

On Monday the university launched its new slogan – “The World Needs New” – part of a $1 million advertising campaign promoting “new thinking, new ideas, and new approaches to tackle global problems”.

But the National Tertiary Education Union says “no amount of rebranding” can “paper over” staff dissatisfaction at a university-wide restructure that could see 170 of the more than 1700 full-time and casual professional staff on campus facing redundancy.

Six months after the Newcastle Herald revealed the university’s leaders were undertaking a review of professional – or non-academic – staff, union officials say consultation has “dried up” and there are no answers about what comes next.

“Recommendations from the external consultant hired to undertake the review were due to be announced in April, but the review is seemingly in disarray: promised weekly updates for staff dried up without explanation around six weeks ago,” the union’s Newcastle branch said in a statement. “UON has refused to reveal the ongoing cost of the review [but] $25 million price tag for a recent similar review at the University of NSW is worrying.”

But the union’s decision to raise the review – and the likely job cuts – on the same day the university unveiled its new brand raised the ire of the university’s bosses.

LAUNCH: Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of research and innovation launching the university's new brand on Monday. Picture: Marina Neil

LAUNCH: Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of research and innovation launching the university's new brand on Monday. Picture: Marina Neil

In a statement, a spokeswoman said it was “disappointing that yet again the NTEU has sought to diminish the pride of UON staff and students in their university”.

“The NTEU has raised a suite of disconnected issues in an attempt to detract from the great achievements of staff and students, which was the focus of today’s launch of UON’s new brand campaign,” the spokeswoman said. “The University of Newcastle has long been one of the world’s quiet achievers but it is time to tell our story.”

Tina Imig, a brand strategist on the university's marketing and communications team, said Sydney agency Special Group had collaborated on the campaign that hinges on the word “New”, a play on the city’s name.

“Among students, academics and industry partners it's been very powerfully received. It's a call-to-arms," Ms Imig said. “One of the things we've discovered is the power of this idea to shape perceptions of the university. We've been quite quiet [as a university] about our success and achievements.”

The university’s statement did not address the likelihood of job cuts, saying the university was in a “highly competitive environment” that meant it needed to “keep improving our processes”.

“As planned the new organisational design will be delivered in phases, with a further update to be provide to staff at the end of May,” she said.

She said that in the context of “recent changes to government funding for higher education” it was important the university was “proactive in managing change” to “ensure we remain competitive and avoid having change forced on us”.

The advertising campaign – which also includes the slogan “New Needs You” – includes what the university called “creative lines” – slogans – with “online digital executions”, and plans to expand the campaign to public transport and cinemas.