Uni spends over $5.5m on layoffs

The University of Otago spent more than $5.5 million on redundancies in the past four years.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act showed a total of 121.88 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff were made redundant over the four years from 2010 to 2013.

The figures also showed overall FTEs at the university declined from 3759 in 2011 to 3754 last year.

Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Otago University organiser Shaun Scott said the numbers were of concern.

''When you hear the numbers presented in that way, both the dollars and particularly the number of people - that's a significant impact,'' Mr Scott said.

Taking into account part-time staff, 121.88 FTE likely added to ''150 or more'' people being made redundant over the period, he said.

''It has such a significant impact, obviously on the individuals affected, but also on their colleagues that remain as well. It can impact on workload and certainly it can impact on morale.''

The fact overall job numbers at the university had stayed level over the past three years was of concern not just for staff and the union, but also for the city of Dunedin.

It meant Dunedin could no longer be as reliant on the university for job growth as it had been in the past.

''Undeniably, the university is a huge employer and has a huge role in the economic and cultural wellbeing of the city.''

The slight decline in job numbers from 2011 to last year was likely a result of declining student numbers and tight government funding.

University human resources director Kevin Seales said, as part of the Official Information Act response, the university did not instigate restructuring process ''without very good reason''.

''We take our obligations to be a good employer seriously and are acutely aware of the effects that loss of employment can have.

''Broadly, over this period, there were three situations where restructuring processes were used: firstly when there has been a loss of research funding or a need to reduce costs; secondly to meet changing business needs; and finally to accommodate the [College of Education] merger.''

The most redundancies were in the humanities department (34.6 FTEs) followed by health sciences (31.41).

Of the redundancies 52.33 FTEs were academic staff and 69.55 FTEs were general staff.

The university spent $354 million on staff costs last year.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz