A union representative for the Wagga-campus of Charles Sturt University has described the feeling of "fear and uncertainty" that reigns among staff, ahead of imminent job cuts.
Dr Helen Masterman-Smith of the National Tertiary Education Union told The Daily Advertiser the community is still awaiting any firm details after it was told of the university's $80 million revenue deficit.
"We all just have a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers and that concerns us," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
"Our number one issue is clarity on how many job losses there will be."
As part of the NTEU's negotiation framework, Dr Masterman-Smith said the union would be pushing to see voluntary redundancies rolled out where job losses are inevitable.
"Assuming there are job losses, they should be seeking voluntary redundancies so that those who may be close to retirement, or those who are financially secure can put their hands up if they want to," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
"We don't want someone being tapped on the shoulder [for a job loss[ who desperately needs the wage while the person sitting next to them may want to take it."
Negotiations on the framework are still continuing with the hopes that members of the union will soon be able to vote on any compromises to their award.
The Daily Advertiser reached out to Charles Sturt University to indicate whether voluntary redundancies would be kept on the table, but the vice chancellor declined to comment on specifics.
But in a joint statement released by Universities Australia, Professor Andrew Vann acknowledged the need to continue discussions with the NTEU ahead of making the job cuts.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"Ultimately, we are all working towards the same aim-the ongoing viability of Australia's higher education sector and the essential role universities and their staff play in our communities," Professor Vann said.
"Universities wishing to take advantage of the framework will need to put the variation to a staff vote and then have it approved by the Fair Work Commission."
The university also faced criticism this week from Member for Bathurst, Paul Toole, who questioned how finances could turn around so drastically within five years.
He cited an apparent budget surplus of $38 million in 2015 in comparison to the present $80 million revenue deficit.
"CSU has a core charter to represent the communities in Albury, Bathurst, Dubbo and Wagga; they have a responsibility for those campuses first," Mr Toole said.
"What they've done is now put these campuses at risk because of decisions that have been made in the past."
Dr Masterman-Smith agreed that the "questions are important and need some answers".
"I think they are very good questions, our members have a lot of similar questions," she said.
"Our charter as a regional university is to cater to the needs of the regional locations, that's our number one goal. To do that we will need a strong workforce."
In light of Mr Toole's commentary, Dr Masterman-Smith furthered the call for greater transparency on how the deficit figure had been calculated.
In response, the university issued a statement pinning the revenue downturn once again on the COVID-19 situation's impact on international student numbers.
"We have clearly stated the financial challenge we are facing and will continue working with our stakeholders to ensure we can protect our capacity to serve our communities into the future," the university released.
"Charles Sturt is not alone in the sector in facing a financial challenge as we respond to changing markets and losses as a result of COVID-19."