Uni staff face months of uncertainty

University of Otago staff looked grim as they left a meeting where they were told 160 jobs will be cut and face months of uncertainty while they wait to find out if their job is on the chopping block.

Vice Chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne confirmed the cuts at a meeting this afternoon, which were down from the 182 expected to be lost, at a large meeting with staff at the St David lecture theatre in Dunedin this afternoon.

A university spokeswoman said the changes were expected to save the institution $14.9m a year.

The changes would be "gradually phased over several months" with moves to appoint staff to current or new roles by mid next year.

The announcement comes after the university launched a support services review in mid-2015, followed by a three month consultation process this year in which 611 submissions were made by staff and groups about the cuts.

In response to points raised in the submissions 22 full-time-equivalent jobs would be retained.

University staff looked grim as they left the meeting.  Few spoke to waiting media, and some looked very emotional as they dealt with what they had heard.

University of Otago staff leave a meeting today where they were told 160 jobs would be cut. Photo: Gregor Richardson
University of Otago staff leave a meeting today where they were told 160 jobs would be cut. Photo: Gregor Richardson

Tertiary Education Union organiser Shaun Scott said while the meeting had provided some further detail about redundancies, most staff would still not know for several months if they had a job or not.

"There was certainly a wee bit of detail, but people won't know exactly what their future is until we are further in to the process. 

"That incredible amount of stress people are under and the effect it has on their health and well-being continues.

"It will be 2-1/2 years or longer in to the process before some people know what their future is."

Prof Hayne said each submission from staff was "carefully read".

"The overwhelming feedback was generally supportive of the model.

"There is wide recognition that we need to change the way we do business in several areas and we need to focus our collective efforts to get this right."

Staffing in some areas including administration and student support would be increased in response to the submissions, she said.

At the meeting she told staff she knew the review had caused "anxiety" and "uncertainty for staff".

Mr Scott said the lengthy consultation process had raised some hope that the initial figure of 182 proposed redundancies may decrease.

A small drop was a very small positive from a grim situation.

"That (160) is the full time equivalent, so when you throw in part-time people it might be a bit higher than that: it's hard to say exactly what the number of people is.

"It depends who put their hands up for voluntary (redundancy) it depends on who survives the competitive process of it as."


And yet I see a uni-sign-written new Holden Colorado most days I'm at work. Priorities, eh?