Dozens of public servants at the Australian Institute of Sport and Australian Sports Commission are facing the sack after helping support the nation’s successful Commonwealth Games campaign.
As the Australian team wraps up its two weeks of sporting glory in Glasgow on Sunday, some sports scientists and other technicians at the AIS and the sports commission are facing the dole queue.
Staff have been told forced redundancies were on the table as the cash-strapped commission is forced to reduce its spending by $66 million and its workforce by more than 20 per cent.
A key union at the agency says the cuts will weaken Australia’s ability to compete on the global sporting stage.
The commission was heading for an operating loss of $15 million in 2013-2014 financial year and budgeting for another, unspecified loss in 2014-2015.
The Abbott government’s first budget has stripped about $66 million from the commission’s budget over the four-year forward estimates period.
It is understood 140 planned staff cuts, originally slated from the corporate services area, are going to spill over into operational units, including sports scientists.
About 30 staff members have agreed to go voluntarily but another round of cuts is due to begin shortly, meaning an additional 30 workers face retrenchment.
The technical union Professionals Australia represents many of the sports scientists and technicians at AIS and ASC and the union’s ACT director Dave Smith says workers at the commission are disappointed there is not more support from politicians for their work.
“What they can’t reconcile is how a government can celebrate sporting excellence and not invest in the people who go a huge way to making that success possible,” Mr Smith said.
“We have members who are concerned about the ongoing viability of sports science disciplines if these cuts come through in their areas.”
Mr Smith said the contribution of AIS scientists to the Australian sporting heroics were not confined to Commonwealth Games or Olympic events.
“The priorities are athletes and then coaching but sports scientists, they can sometimes make that tenth of a second difference between a bronze and a gold,” Mr Smith said.
“In this context when we’re talking about the Commonwealth Games but the work of sports scientists at the AIS supports all sports and cut across into games like cricket and rugby and there’s a huge amount of work they do there to make our athletes much more competitive.”
ASC chief executive officer Simon Hollingsworth was travelling back from Scotland on Friday and was unavailable for comment.