Sunshine Coast university staff fear job cuts

ACADEMICS incensed by staff cuts less than a fortnight before lectures are due to start have moved a motion of no confidence in senior management of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

About 60 academic staff members met yesterday to discuss their concerns over the university's handling of staffing issues relating to the reallocation of funds from the teaching budget.

Sessional or casual staff have had their hours slashed as a result of a $1.4 million cut in the teaching budget for the Faculty of Arts and Business.

A meeting between the National Tertiary Education Union and university management yesterday morning failed to reach a resolution.

Although a statement from the university on Wednesday evening said a majority of staff were believed to be understanding and supportive of the new direction, the mood of yesterday's NTEU meeting was the opposite.

Staff labelled the university's handling of the matter as "unprofessional", described "very, very poor processes", and complained of being "corralled" into altered workloads as a result of teaching cuts.

Some were not even sure how subjects would be taught once lectures start next week.

"What are we to do next week? We have to cover those classes somehow," one said.

About 300 students are believed to have voiced concerns to the Student Guild about overlapping lectures and timetable alterations resulting from the staff changes.

NTEU state divisional secretary Michael McNally said the majority of academic staff were upset about the way the matter had been handled by the university.

"For them to dismiss our concerns as a couple of squeaky wheels is really quite insulting," he said.

Another meeting of professional and technical staff also voiced concerns about similar cuts likely to hit them this year.

The university's pro vice-chancellor of corporate services, Dr Scott Snyder, said he could imagine some people would be unhappy about the changes.

But he said the changes were designed to be for the good of the university and the community.

Dr Snyder said faculties had been asked to reduce their spending on sessional staff so the funds could be redirected towards strategic initiatives. He said about $3 million of the $4 million sessional budget would still be available to the Faculty of Arts and Business.

"They'll still have a very, very large sessional budget," he said.

Asked about the timing of the changes, Dr Snyder said, "I don't think there's any good time."

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