Victoria University management is standing firm behind its rejection of claims that key union officials are being deliberately sacked ahead of new staff bargaining.

A recent protest by staff and supporters called for a halt to the forced redundancy of three of VU’s four National Tertiary Education Union representatives as part of a ‘transformation agenda’ that includes a new First Year Model.

But deputy vice-chancellor Rhonda Hawkins, who is leading the transformation, said there has been no agenda from management to deliberately target union officials.

“We have reams of data that help us to look at where the university’s focus should be,” she said.

“So absolutely unequivocally, there was no targeting of anyone. What we’ve had to do is to look at the areas where there is a strong record of achievement, strong demand and a strong future.

“Then in those courses areas where there’s not, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to close down those areas of teaching.”

Ms Hawkins said that in the areas where there’s been redundancy, the university can show that teaching hours, students numbers and productivity are not sufficient to continue.

“So we’re not targeting staff or individuals, we’re looking at programs and whether those can still continue to run.”

Ms Hawkins also rejected any suggestions that VU intends to play hardball on negotiations for the new enterprise agreement with staff, or would follow the Murdoch University lead in scrapping a negotiated agreement and reverting to a basic award.

“I’ve actually in my time negotiated four enterprise agreements and I believe the best negotiation process is when you have the best team on either side of the table and we work out what is the current industrial climate, what are the things the university wants and what are the things that the staff are looking for, and to negotiate a good combination of those,” she said.

“There are some things in the current agreement that make it hard for the university to do the things it needs to do. Fundamentally though, it doesn’t want massive change – I don’t think VU has expressed any intention to go down the Murdoch path.”

Ms Hawkins said the First Year Model is “a whole new approach” which needs contemporary courses that are relevant, attractive and hit the mark for jobs that will be out there for the next 20 years.

“We’re re-inventing our academic program, we’re re-inventing the way we deliver it and we’re reinventing the university to put the students as the focus of what we do,” she said.

“We’ve got a moral obligation to do everything in our power to give them the best possible
experience.”