Staff at the Australian National University (ANU) have voted to defer their scheduled wage increases for the next two years in light of a $225 million budget shortfall due to COVID-19.
The 2 per cent pay increase scheduled for July 2020 and 2021 will each be deferred for 12 months, saving the University $6.75 million in the next six months and $13.5 million over 12 months.
In total, 4,217 staff members – 60 per cent of the university’s employees – took part in the ballot. The vote passed by just 39 votes.
The vote still needs to be put to the Fair Work Commission and cannot take effect unless it is approved.
“This saving directly translates into being able to keep more jobs, and we will transparently demonstrate how every dollar will be used to protect jobs,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt wrote in an email to staff.
“While today’s decision will help us retain more jobs into the future, it does not resolve all the issues we face.
“We are going to do as much as possible through voluntary separations, and we will reduce or defer spending wherever we can.”
The ANU will also reduce its use of casual staff and limit the renewal of fixed-term contracts.
The ANU spends $100 million on salary and operating costs each month, and expects a $125 million reduction in tuition fees and a further $25 million in other revenue such as commercial activities on campus because of coronavirus restrictions. The university also expects COVID-19 and the bushfire crisis to increase spending by about $75 million more than initially budgeted for.
To make up some savings, the university will defer some construction work and maintenance upgrades which will reduce planned expenditure by $100 million.
Further job cuts and redundancies are not off the table and a hiring freeze has also been introduced.