Message from the Vice-Chancellor: media coverage re. staff survey

11 June 2013

You may have read in this weekend's Sun Herald an article in which Greens senator Lee Rhiannon commented on the results of our recent staff opinion survey. It is disappointing that the article contained several errors of fact, despite the provision of accurate information to the reporter prior to publication.

First, Senator Rhiannon asserted that the University is casualising its workforce. This is simply not true. The percentage of casual academic staff at Sydney has declined from 24.7 percent in 2001 to 19.9 percent last year, and casual academics make up no more than five percent of the total academic staffing of any faculty. There has also been a decline, although a much smaller one, in the percentage of casual professional and administrative staff, from 14.9 percent in 2001 to 14.5 percent in 2012. Other universities may be increasing casualisation, but not Sydney, and certainly not as part of this round of  enterprise bargaining negotiations.

Second, Senator Rhiannon claimed that the University was refusing to give wage rises. There is no basis for this assertion: negotiations in the latest round of enterprise bargaining regarding salary increases have not been concluded. University of Sydney academic and general staff salaries are already the highest of any university in Australia.

Senator Rhiannon's comments as reported in the article are disappointing given that I have written to her as recently as this April explaining the implications of the latest budget cuts and offering to brief her on these and related matters in either Sydney or Canberra. She is yet to take up that offer.

The University commissioned the Voice survey as part of a genuine effort to better understand your views. There is no doubt that the survey indicates some areas in which we need to improve, not least in change management and the way we communicate, but I really regret that there is inaccurate public commentary on an issue of such importance to our community.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Spence

Vice-Chancellor and Principal