CHARLES Sturt University's proposed budget for 2020 has fast become redundant amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continued uncertainty around jobs, investment and enrollments.
The university released its 2019 Annual Report this week, outlining the facility's $4.6 million surplus heading into 2020, which has turned into an $80 million decline in revenue since the pandemic began and a now projected deficit of $49.5 million for the year.
A statement in the report made reference to the ongoing pandemic, outlining that it was "quickly becoming evident" economic conditions faced by the university in 2019 "will look nothing like those faced in 2020".
The report indicated the impact on the economy, investment opportunities, enrollment figures and other market areas would all contribute to an unknown path the university will take into 2021.
Staff have been in limbo in recent weeks with threats of job losses looming to make up the budget shortfall.
The National Tertiary Education Union pushed for other means of reducing spending in place of job cuts, but a recent decision by Charles Sturt indicated it would not support the Job Protection Framework put forward.
"We understand these financial pressures are real, but at the same time, we are in very unusual circumstances and we must work around that by finding measures within the enterprise agreement to save as many positions as possible," NTEU Wagga representative Dr Helen Masterman-Smith said.
"It seems that the university council is quite adamant about forced redundancies but there are other alternatives not being acknowledged."
Dr Masterman-Smith said voluntary redundancies were a big contender for lowering the number of unfair job losses at the university.
"In situations like this, asking people who are, say, close to retirement or who have that little bit of a financial backup to volunteer for a redundancy is normally suitable, and a lot of the time there are a few who are quite happy to do so," she said.
"But if the university won't go for that, which really is unusual, then perhaps a selective approach where people may opt for hour cuts or reductions in pay.
"There is a requirement under the enterprise agreement to consult with staff if redundancies are imminent, and look at other possible opportunities such as retirement packages or switching to part time employment, and that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment."
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Vice-Chancellor Andrew Vann said in a statement the proposed COVID-19 Job Protection Framework required "compromise not acceptable to the University", and therefore would not be adopted.
"Our financial position and the impacts of COVID-19 means we need to resolve our structural problems. As we have noted previously, we regret this will result in job losses," the statement read.
"While the 2019 Charles Sturt Annual Report, published 4 June 2020, shows a small surplus, we are projecting a significant deficit and revenue loss in 2020, primarily as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 which has exacerbated previous issues."
However, the need to tighten its budget has been coined a long term issue faced by Charles Sturt before the pandemic broke out.
"There has always been this underlying issue of under funding for regional universities," Dr Masterman-Smith said.
"Saving money on any job cuts won't fix the real ongoing issue of neglect by the coalition government, it's a long term challenge to face."
The notion of a need to cut costs on employment before the COVID-19 pandemic has also been indicated in the annual report figures.
For the year ending December 31, 2019, Charles Sturt spent $313,550 on employee related expenses, yet have budgeted only $298,422 for 2020.
In the report, it was stated that, "Both domestic and global economic conditions have an impact on Charles Sturt University in its capacity as an education provider for Australian and international students, and as an employer, investor, borrower and a procurer of goods and services".