Extra funding for national cultural institutions designed to make up for revenue shortfalls during the coronavirus pandemic will do little to stop expected job cuts as a result of ongoing budget cuts, the union representing workers at the institutions says.
Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher quietly announced $22.9 million in extra funding to be included in the federal budget last Saturday, saying the money was to support the institutions through the continuing revenue decline due to COVID-19.
"COVID-19 means these institutions have lost revenue they would normally get from visitors, exhibitions and donations; this funding will help make up for that loss so the national cultural institutions can maintain their activities," Mr Fletcher said in a statement.
"It means our institutions can continue to showcase Australian history, culture and art to the public, in person and online."
Eight institutions - including the National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery, National Library, National Museum and the Portrait Gallery - would receive a share of the funding.
But the Community and Public Sector Union says the funding will not prevent expected job losses, which are the result of the uniform efficiency dividend applied across government agencies, and Tuesday's budget was not expected to bring any relief for the embattled institutions.
The union also said the National Gallery of Australia had moved to making some staff involuntarily redundant after a voluntary redundancy program failed to attract enough applicants.
The union's deputy secretary, Beth Vincent-Pietsch, said the gallery was running on the smell of an oily rag, and experienced, highly trained staff did not want to put their hand up to leave.
The gallery is looking to cut 30 positions, about 10 per cent of its staff.
"We've got rising costs, we've got the efficiency dividend, our ability to raise income is limited, and so all of that needs to be part of a bigger approach," the gallery's director, Nick Mitzevich, told The Canberra Times in June.
"I'm just trying to be responsive. We're a public entity, we serve the Australian public so I'm trying to make sure that we can continue to serve our mandate and work within the financial envelope we have."
Mr Mitzevich said there was no fat left for the gallery to cut, and the job losses were like cutting into bone. The gallery cut about 20 positions in 2016, after the 2016-17 budget shaved 63 full-time jobs out of cultural institutions in a year.
The gallery was unable to provide a further response before deadline.
Job cuts are also expected at the National Museum, where director Mathew Trinca has advised staff he expects between 10 and 12 positions to be cut in the current financial year, mostly through voluntary redundancies.
Cuts to National Library funding have seen plans made to close the Asian collections reading room and limit overseas collecting. The library's publishing division has also cut the number of books it produces each year. Job losses are also expected.
Mrs Vincent-Pietsch said the efficiency dividend was an inappropriate tool to manage funding to cultural institutions.
"The efficiency dividend, which is applied across the board in the [Australian public service], has a disproportionate impact on the cultural institutions, because they're very small, they don't have a lot of staffing or funding. They can't year upon year find efficiencies without it impacting on what they deliver to the public," she told the Sunday Canberra Times.
"We are very concerned that, unless this coming budget has an exemption to the efficiency dividend and looks at the cultural institutions as needing its own funding model to deliver into the future, that they're going to continue to see cuts."
Mr Fletcher defended the job cuts in June, telling the ABC's Insiders program efficiency dividends were an "appropriate discipline".
"At the same time, what we need to see is institutions like the National Gallery of Australia developing and implementing a long-term plan," he said.
HOW THE COVID-19 FUNDING IS ALLOCATED
- $2.3 million for the Australian Film Television and Radio School
- $2.0 million for the Australian National Maritime Museum
- $2.5 million for the National Film and Sound Archive
- $4.5 million for the National Gallery of Australia
- $5.4 million for the National Library of Australia
- $3.9 million for the National Museum of Australia
- $1.2 million for the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, and
- $1.1 million for Screen Australia