ANU's musical backdown

ANU's musical backdown

ANU management has backed down over its plans to “spill’’ the positions of 32 of its tenured and permanent academic and administrative staff at the School of Music today, bowing to union pressure to use formal redundancy provisions instead.

While this does not change its plans to eliminate 10 of the 32 positions, it gives staff a greater chance to fight for their jobs or a chance at redeployment - as well as access to full redundancy provisions.

Scenes at the ANU School of Music rally.

Scenes at the ANU School of Music rally.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

The National Tertiary Education Union was today notified the ANU would withdraw its “Change Management Proposal” after the union issued a notice of dispute over management’s “spill and fill” plans for long-serving and specialised staff – many of whom are musicians of world renown.

Vice-Chancellor Ian Young said this afternoon that “while the university does not concede that the ANU Enterprise Agreement has been breached, the university accepts that some staff may have concerns regarding the wording of the change proposal as it relates to declaring positions vacant. It is also noted that some staff think that this has occurred now, which it has not. Any staffing changes that might arise will be finalised once the outcome of the overall consultation process has been concluded.”

Professor Young said that in acknowledging these concerns, the university had agreed to withdraw this section of the proposal and replace with wording with


"Subject to the outcome of the consultation process, any impacts on staff will be managed in accordance with the provisions of the Enterprise Agreement.

‘’Subject to the conclusion of the consultation process and if the revised curriculum is implemented, the ANU will seek expressions of interest from existing staff for positions within the proposed staffing profile,’’ Professor Young said.

Union ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said this was a breakthrough although both parties were still in the midst of agreeing on the new terms and technical wording.

Mr Darwin said the move would come as a partial relief to staff, whose jobs can no longer simply be declared as vacant.

“Now management will have to go through the redundancy process, justify a position as redundant, and justify the staff member can’t do that job in the new curriculum and then justify why they can’t claim redeployment.”

The nine permanent administrative staff whose positions were spilled last fortnight had a particularly strong case to stay, Mr Darwin said.

He noted that while the change management document had said staff affected would get access to their “full entitlement”, this term was outside the Enterprise Agreement.

“A full entitlement to what is what we want to know,” he said.

Mr Darwin said there was no doubt some staff wanted to leave the school following the stresses of the past few weeks.

One thousand music-lovers crowded into the Australian National University’s Union Court at lunch time today to protest the cuts in one of the biggest and loudest rallies in the university’s history.

The protest took the form of a massive roving concert with various musical acts dotted around campus joining for a midday jam session in the central court.

Percussionist Gary France, who has performed with the likes of James Morrison, Richie Cole, and Ricky May, led about 50 student musicians from the School of Music, past the Chancelry Building, to the growing audience in Union Court.

A band was already playing and student and staff performers began a several-hour-long jam.

Saxophonist John Mackey, who has performed with Jazz legends including BB King and Ray Charles – kept the audience swaying as staff were singled out for applause.

One rousing improvisation saw the assembled crowds chant “Save Our School”, while the more refined strains of a choral rendition of the national anthem was conducted by head of Aural Studies Olle Palmqvist from the bridge above.

A few meters away a more folksy group persisted with Beatles classics above the driving beat.

Both Vice-Chancellor Ian Young and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Marnie Hughes-Warrington are interstate attending pre-existing commitments.

Neither Professor Young, nor University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker would comment on speculation the UC could step in and offer a financial life-line to the beleaguered school.


Professor Young is believed to be interested in securing philanthropic donations as a way to bolster School of Music finances, and said it had also been raised on numerous occasions as part of staff feedback during the three-week consultation period.

He has been involved in preliminary discussions with some groups, saying “the School’s doors will always be open to individuals, businesses, arts organisations and government to explore ways to support and enhance the work of the School of Music and music generally in the ACT community.’’

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