Vote NO to Deakin’s Dodgy Deal
NB: I wrote this during the 4-hour stop-work NTEU is partaking in today.
Deakin has put its version of a “fair” EA to staff, which is up for a vote from 24th –> 28th of April. It’s typical Deakin management. Embarrassingly low offers of pay rises, painfully low rate of casualisation conversion, and... that’s about it. Nothing about working from home rights for staff. A half-hearted “oh yeah we’ll look at workloads” comment, and some First Nations advancement stuff (which I have no comment on because I haven’t spoken to anyone across that yet).
Deakin’s branch of the NTEU has been posting facts. They’re working to combat the half-truths, twisted realities, and missing information Deakin tries to disseminate around their terrible deal. Here’s some of the Deakin NTEU information pointing out why you should vote NO:
There’s more at:
Those are all great resources to stay up to date on the current information. In this post I’d like to focus more on Deakin’s (semi-recent) history and why their rationalisations for not helping its staff are not true. I’d also like to review how they’ve treated staff in the last few years, during the multiple (and still ongoing) restructures Deakin is doing to its staff while management constantly shifts around the catastrophic fires they started. This post will have some numbers in it, but it’s more about learning how they really feel about the staff, and how they’ve blatantly misled us many times.
How we got here…
To start, here’s a rundown of the restructures during the COVID period. I am not saying COVID caused these restructures, as by all accounts they were planned well before that. They were, however, a convenient excuse to let Iain and Deakin Council run roughshod through the staff, hacking and slashing however they wanted.
COVID lockdowns start. Deakin (and everyone else) must rush to have the workforce working from home. Thanks to the hard work of the staff, the migration to working from home wasn’t as bad as some other universities and companies.
Iain has a town hall announcing the first round of redundancies. He cries poor and gives the worst-case predictions of loss of students. He conveniently ignores the university has $500+ million in a “future fund”, as well as over a billion in easily sellable non-building assets. That doesn’t matter; 400+ full-time staff must lose their jobs, as well hundreds and hundreds of casuals and sessional staff. Voluntary redundancies are not offered. They have a hit list and they go through it, cutting out people via restructure/major workplace change (MWC).
Deakin attempts to give the minimum amount of consultation (2 weeks) on the changes, and takes other actions that go against the EA. The NTEU takes them to the Fair Work Commission and wins. Deakin begrudgingly extends consultation and makes some other changes to fall in line with the FWC decision.
Deakin posts their financial report including (surprise surprise), making a profit on the backs of all the staff they fired (and the rest they’ve overworked).
Deakin comes out with Phase 2 (“Deakin Reimagined” aka “Deakin Disimagined”). Even more redundancies. Major workplace changes across the board. Already low staff morale goes even lower. Deakin expects even more of the staff as they cause chaos and stress amongst everyone. I believe in the town hall presentation announcing this phase, Iain lies and says that this will happen and then no more restructures after, but I am not sure and will not listen to him talk for an hour to get one snippet. Deakin pretends to take ideas in their Ideas Hub but by all accounts, ignores all input and does whatever they wanted with areas. The result is multiple thousands of peoples’ lives thrown into stress and chaos, and near 1000 (I think?) more job cuts, easily double the first phase. Deakin did this to you, with no remorse and no support (no, the employee wellbeing service with their booked-out-for-months psychologists doesn’t count as support).
Deakin once again posts a profit in their financial report. Iain is congratulated for his actions by people who are more worried about money than people.
Deakin is struggling. Staff are overworked, stressed, and morale is terrible. Some areas are on their third or fourth restructure in as many years, as management seems to just be making it up as they go along. Middle management bullying is rife and university leadership appears to have abdicated themselves of any responsibility. Students are starting to see the cracks as staff are working WELL beyond what they’re supposed to, because they care for the students (and Deakin knows this).
Deakin chooses this moment to try and give staff a shoddy EA, dooming them to another three years of being underpaid and overworked.
Deakin will post their 2022 annual report. Any bets that they’ll be posting profits again?
That timeline focuses a lot on what Deakin claims vs how Deakin is doing. Let’s dig in, looking at their claims before both times they announced they were firing hundreds of people and causing chaos for thousands of others.
May 2020 – Models for future expenses
“To put this in context, we will be spending more than we earn in 2020, 2021 and even with an optimistic recovery pathway some of 2022, and we will not return to an operating surplus until 2023.”
November 2020 – More Models
From Video of the All Staff Briefing – 20 November 2020 (sharepoint.com) (around the 15 minute mark):
“For 2020 […] leaving us with a net deficit of 69 million and an underlying surpl—underlying deficit I should say—of 36.4 million.”
“The budget we took to council for next year indicates that […] a gap in there of around 90 million dollars [deficit]).”
“But what I can assure you is we will continue to do what we have done in the past, which is to be open and honest as we can with the university community…”
March 2021 – Actual Results and 2021 FY predictions!
From Video of the all staff briefing – 3 March (sharepoint.com) (around the 8 minute mark):
“Now I know that when I spoke to you in the third semester of last year that we would end the year in a deficit…”
Wow, a profit (they choose to use ‘surplus’ even though they’ve turned the university into a business)! Who could have guessed! Certainly not all the models Deakin uses to justify not paying staff (and even firing heaps)!
But wait, he makes more predictions for the future! Let’s see how those turn out…
June 2022 – Actual Results of FY2021
From Video of the VC's all-staff briefing – 23 June 2022 (sharepoint.com) (around 7 minutes in):
“So.. we had a slightly increased income compared to where we were in our budget position…”
“The overall result for the year was a total surplus of 80 million dollars…”
“[The underlying surplus] was 21 million dollars. That is a good and solid position to be in for the university.”
Once again, they made a profit.
He also, once again, predicts the future:
That’s 2022, which are the results that haven’t been publicly released. Of course, they used very similar tables in the argument for why they can’t pay people more in this round of bargaining and why they’re offering sub-standard rates.
This cycle of making up terrible numbers, using that to decimate the staff, and then coming out in profit is their playbook. It’s how they’ve done everything the last few years, and it’s how they’ll continue to do things, by all accounts. We need to break this cycle, because they definitely won’t.
“We’re all in this together.”
It was hilarious when Iain said that during the restructures. This is guy on around a million dollars a year (when you add in all his bonuses/entitlements), and a senior exec that are all on $200k+/yr (some above $500k/yr), and all refused to take salary cuts when Deakin’s financials were (allegedly) so dire (Iain forewent some bonuses in 2020, but that was it). This is a council that decided their $500+ million (I believe it’s closer to a one billion dollars now, if not over) surplus nest egg shouldn’t be used AT ALL, but instead sit there, growing, while Deakin staff suffer. This is the exec that decided casual staff should lose access to the library and email when there isn’t a teaching period they’re hired on for. In fact, Deakin is currently in Fair Work because they were caught ripping off casuals for years and years (like many other universities). As far as I know, the woman who sends out all the emails about how Deakin is trying to help the staff during these negotiations, hasn’t even shown up to one bargaining meeting. Does any of this say Deakin cares about and respects its staff?
The union saw many, many ideas/feedback letters that were sent to Deakin around their two rounds of restructures. Big surprise: Deakin acted on extremely few of them. This was advice coming from people on the ground, in technical or management roles, who had years of experience in their areas, and Deakin ignored them. Generally, what would come in is more upper management to manage these people, because if there’s one thing that’s needed, it’s more upper management. Because of Deakin ignoring staff input, we lost some great staff, both through redundancies and through wrecked Deakin culture post-restructures (which are still happening).
Everything old is new again
One thing that really gets me is that after these years of lying, scrambling, obfuscating, is that they have the nerve to try it again when it comes to this vote. I guess we can’t blame them, they’ve all getting richer on the backs of a broken staff (those that are still around). Hell, Iain got re-hired for another few years while various areas in the university are so toxic that people are taking stress leave to avoid it. Other areas are so dysfunctional that people are being told it could be a 6+ month wait for help with stuff. This is what Deakin Council and Exec did. I guess as long as they keep denying there’s systemic issues, they can keep milking this cow. It’s worked before, why wouldn’t they try it again?
It’s up to you to stop them. Not as “retribution” for the horrible way they treated their staff during restructures (and continue to treat them, really). You should stop them because there is no good reason they can’t come to the bargaining table and offer more, besides greed. I believe I’ve established all their models (or at least the ones they feel like sharing with us) are if not intentionally misleading, very poor. They have no good excuses for why they’re offering so little, besides the unspoken one (they think the staff don’t deserve it). That’s ridiculous.
The scare-mongering coming from the university emails are offensive as well. They send half-completed threats, saying there will be NO pay raises or extra holidays if the staff vote down this EA. They forget to mention “until a new EA is signed, and at other universities new EAs have been signed a month or two after the non-union ballot is struck down”. Our president, Dr. Piper Rodd, has correctly said multiple times that the uni could give us pay rises, give us days off, whenever they wanted. They don’t though, because they don’t actually care about the staff’s wellbeing. They’ve sent various emails threatening staff who are even *thinking* about taking industrial action, which is not allowed, of course. You can’t be persecuted for thought crimes, although I’m sure they’d love that. It's the same thing every email/presentation: claims of transparency, a reality of half-truths and obfuscations designed to confuse or exhaust you so you just give in.
I’ll finish up by saying: regardless of your opinion of the NTEU, Deakin is pushing a terrible deal and expecting you to thank them for it. These are people out of touch with the Deakin community and culture trying to dictate (once again) from the top down how things should be. While this move technically got through before during the restructures, it’s practically failed. This vote should likewise fail. Vote NO. Make Deakin come back to the bargaining table in good faith.