14 Jul 2017

University job cuts: 'It certainly went pretty quiet'

7:07 pm on 14 July 2017

Otago University workers have been shocked to learn just how many jobs are on the line amid proposed job cuts, their union says.

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Photo: Facebook / University of Otago

The university is proposing cutting 182 full-time equivalent support staff positions.

The university held meetings with staff today at its campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington to announce the proposal.

Tertiary Education Union spokesman Shaun Scott said about 600 staff turned out for the Dunedin meeting, and the number of proposed cuts caught people by surprise.

"I think there was a bit of shock in the room, it certainly went pretty quiet at that stage."

Otago employs 2300 full-time general support staff, and its support services have been under review since 2015.

Mr Scott said its was biggest shake up he had seen in the past two decades and the total number of staff affected could be much higher than the 182 full time equivalent roles signalled.

He said it wasn't good for the city of Dunedin, which is already reeling from the loss of about 360 Cadbury worker jobs.

However Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said he was confident Dunedin wouldn't be unduly affected by the job losses.

"Any job losses are upsetting and difficult for staff who will be affected by the announcement.

"However, the types of jobs in a community are regularly changing and developing, and it's quite possible the positions would be absorbed within the city," he said.

Vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said it had been 20 years since administrative services were comprehensively reviewed.

Professor Hayne said the proposed cuts would make the university's funding go further in core academic and research endeavours.

Although the university had an operating surplus of $27 million last year, it had already been swallowed up by its new music and performing arts centre, she said.

The review was necessary because departments had developed their own internal practices for managing administration, I.T, finance and marketing over the years, and instead the university wanted to develop a shared pool of support staff, she said.

It wasn't yet clear how many staff would be affected, because some were performing a combination of tasks such as administration and marketing.

Professor Hayne said she understood the proposal would have a huge impact on staff morale, and support measures were already being offered.

If adopted, the changes would save $16.7m a year and free up over 7000 sq/m of space.

The majority of job cuts would be carried out by mid 2018.

Staff have until 25 August to give feedback on the proposal.

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