CQ University sheds 180 jobs as it struggles with $116m revenue loss

The coronavirus pandemic hits Queensland’s largest regional university with job losses and a multi-million-dollar revenue shortfall.

May 19, 2020, updated May 19, 2020
CQ University Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp. (Photo: supplied)

CQ University Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp. (Photo: supplied)

More than 180 CQUniversity staff have accepted voluntary redundancies as Queensland’s largest regional university looks to make up for a $116 million revenue loss due to COVID-19.

The university has also announced it will proceed with proposed plans to close its Sunshine Coast, Yeppoon and Biloela sites.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp said he would not consider any forced staff cuts until details of a sector-wide negotiation between Australian universities and the National Tertiary Education Union were finalised.

“COVID-19 has caused businesses of all kinds to rethink their operations to ensure their long-term sustainability, which is exactly what we are doing,”  Klomp said..

“CQUniversity will emerge from COVID-19 as a stronger, more resilient university, which is why we need to take these difficult steps today.

“I want to acknowledge staff who have made the decision to depart the university on their own terms via the voluntary separation process.

“Their selflessness today will be a huge contributor to the long-term sustainability of CQUniversity, as we continue to serve our communities for decades to come.”

Options for online delivery

Klomp said not enough students attended the delivery sites in Noosa, Yeppoon and Biloela to warrant their continuation.

“We are making every effort to ensure our students on the Sunshine Coast — only 16 per cent of whom study on-campus — have the opportunity to see out their studies through local partners or new purpose-built facilities in Brisbane.

“While our on-campus activities in Yeppoon and Biloela are minimal, we have options in place for improved online delivery, and on-site training for local high school students studying VET courses.

“Importantly, we are in discussions with staff from all three sites, to ensure those not receiving a voluntary separation either have the opportunity to request one now, or can be transitioned to other working arrangements.”

Klomp said the cost reduction measures, as well as those already realised, would recover almost $28 million annually for the university.

“This won’t cover our full projected revenue shortfall, however today’s announcement represents a significant portion of the overall costs we need to recover in the long-term,” he said.

“We are looking carefully at the national negotiations between universities and the NTEU, as this may allow us to recover even more costs through measures other than staff separation.

“We won’t commit to any revised enterprise agreement conditions until we have carefully analysed the details — the pay and conditions of our valued staff are just too important to rush into any decisions.

Sector unstable

The National Tertiary Education Union is negotiating with vice-chancellors across Australia to try to limit forced redundancies and job losses.

Last week it announced a package that involved proposing a salary cut of between 5 and 15 per cent to full-time ongoing staff in the hope it could shore-up 12,000 jobs.

“But what we’ve been trying to negotiate with the vice-chancellors on a national level is a package that will save possible 12-thousand jobs across the country,” Queensland Secretary Michael McNally said.

“That would be by limiting forced redundancies and preventing employers from standing people down without pay.”

McNally said having close to 200 CQUniversity staff lose their jobs proves how unstable the sector is and university workers did not feel safe.

“It’s pretty clear that people in higher education are extremely anxious. Their jobs are on the line,” he said.

“There is a massive shortfall in international student revenue somewhere around four to five billion dollars across the sector. That’s going to lead to job losses. There’s no way of avoiding that.”

– ABC / Rachel McGhee and Adam Stephen

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