Fears of University of Newcastle after-dark job cuts

A PROPOSAL to “outsource” the job of checking on students’ welfare in University of Newcastle accommodation at night has alarmed university staff, with some fearing that sensitive roles will be performed by “security guards”.

Documents detailing a restructure of the Infrastructure and Facilities Services section, presented to staff and seen by the Newcastle Herald, suggest the university “consider outsourcing opportunities” in “student living support officer roles for after-hours presence” in its accommodation precinct.

The changes would also eliminate the university’s environmental and business support officers, condense the section’s management from four groups to two and, the Herald understands, cut a senior staff member regarded as a champion for students in accommodation.

“To take these areas which are student-focused and put them in with a team who are about plumbing, gardening and cleaning does not make sense,” said a staff member briefed on the proposals.

“The proposal will also remove the staff who work overnight and replace them with security guards. Security is important in accommodation but the other team’s role is about welfare and caring for students, where security is about control.”

A university spokeswoman said the briefing hadn’t been subjected to a full staff consultation process. 

“UoN’s Infrastructure and Facilities Services (IFS) will announce proposed staff changes in the coming weeks. The formal consultation paper with the proposed changes has not yet been presented to staff, and the change proposal will only be finalised following consultation with staff about the proposal and after all feedback is considered,” the spokeswoman said. 

“The university understands the important role IFS staff play in providing services to students and staff across a range of areas, and this high-quality support and service will continue to remain a priority for the university.”

The university this year agreed to cut short an $88 million management and maintenance contract with Broadspectrum, previously Transfield.