University of Newcastle puts ‘gloss and spin’ above staff in city move: union

NeW world: "Spin and slogans have become characteristic features of the university management’s response," says Associate Professor Tom Griffiths, president of the union’s Newcastle branch. Picture: Marina Neil

NeW world: "Spin and slogans have become characteristic features of the university management’s response," says Associate Professor Tom Griffiths, president of the union’s Newcastle branch. Picture: Marina Neil

TWO months before the University of Newcastle is due to open its city campus, the union for academic staff has launched a blistering attack on what it calls “gloss”, “spin”, and “major failing” to plan for staff transport, parking and childcare.

The brutal assessment is in the National Tertiary Education Union submission on the university’s handling of moving hundreds of its staff to the NeW Space campus, in a climate of feared job cuts.

“University management attempts to sell professional staff the gloss and sheen of a brand new city office workspace, while at the same time sharpening the knife for... cuts – including cuts to professional staff who within weeks of transitioning to this new building will find they are subject to restructuring and job-shedding,” the union’s Lance Dale said. 

“A great look for this university amongst the smoke and mirrors of media spin and propaganda.”

The union’s scathing submission coincides with a small protest outside the university’s “The World Needs New” brand campaign launch on Monday.

But the university said its staff consultation paper, which prompted the union’s reply, is only one part of a three-year “extensive consultation program” for staff relocating to the city.

“Today we are meeting again with the NTEU and staff moving to the city to discuss and provide feedback on their submissions,” a university spokeswoman told the Newcastle Herald

“We have welcomed additional feedback from colleagues and have worked hard to find reasonable solutions to their concerns. We will continue to consult with staff on issues related to the relocation into the CBD ahead of the planned opening of the precinct in mid-year.”

BRANDING: Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, at the launch of the university's new branding campaign. Picture: Marina Neil

BRANDING: Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, at the launch of the university's new branding campaign. Picture: Marina Neil

The union says it suspects the move to NeW Space will bring job cuts, and that staff living in the city should be given “special consideration”.

Among the demands of union staff are shuttle buses every 15 minutes between the Callaghan campus and NeW Space, salary sacrificing options for parking in the city, and subsidised parking.

Associate Professor Tom Griffiths, president of the union’s Newcastle branch, said staff also want assurances about city childcare.

Those matters, and an open-plan work environment the union says the $95 million NeW Space will force on staff, are among several the union accuses the university of spinning.

“We’ve got evidence that a lot of staff will end up working from home,” Dr Griffiths said.

“It’s the union’s position that spin and slogans have become characteristic features of the university management’s response.”

Many staff already dread the results of an “organisational review” announced last November, with some estimates putting a tenth of the University’s 1700 full-time and casual staff at risk of being made redundant.

NeW Space is scheduled to open for the university second semester in late July.

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