Uni redundancies disputed

A multimillion-dollar search for savings is likely to result in redundancies at the University of Otago, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says.

The TEU's comments came after chief operating officer John Patrick said this week academic divisions were expected to find savings to make up for $2.114 million of a $4.183 million shortfall caused by a failure to meet forecast student numbers.

This was ''expected to lead to reviews, restructuring and redundancies'' the TEU said in its weekly newsletter yesterday.

The TEU's claims were later disputed by Otago University's human resources director Kevin Seales.

''The planned savings mentioned at the council meeting [this week] were for 2014 only, and at this stage, there are no plans to carry out any restructuring to achieve them,'' Mr Seales said.

The comments in the TEU newsletter came as it released research showing three out of five New Zealand tertiary education workers believed their jobs would be restructured within the next two years, and 30% believed they would be made redundant.

TEU organiser Shaun Scott elaborated further on fears about cuts at Otago University, saying the announcement at the council meeting caused ''stress and anxiety'' for staff.

''People are feeling vulnerable. We haven't been notified of any formal reviews or anything like that, but it does create that sense of vulnerability for people.''

This was particularly the case for fixed-term staff, who already faced an uncertain employment future.

With the university allocating its surpluses to its ''more than $600 million'' building programme there was discussion about whether it was investing too much in buildings and not enough in staff.

However, the biggest issue was a need for more Government funding, as there should be enough money to maintain both staff levels and ageing buildings.

TEU national president Lesley Francey said its survey results were symptomatic of a lack of Government funding''The Government is spending half a billion dollars less on tertiary education than it did six years ago.''

A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce disputed the TEU's claims about Government funding.

''The reality is the tertiary sector is in good shape and the Government has increased funding in the sector since 2008, despite tough financial times.''

''In 2013, the Government invested $2.25 billion in publicly owned tertiary institutions, an increase of 13.9% since 2008,'' he said.

When it came to the issue of redundancies, he stressed tertiary institutions were autonomous organisations under the Education Act.

''Individual institutions are best placed to make decisions about the operation of their organisations including staffing.''

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz