Concerns over staff safety, workplace culture at Southern Cross University

THE National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has released survey results highlighting what it calls shocking levels of workplace stress and dysfunction at Southern Cross University (SCU).

A survey report entitled ‘The final straw: Insights into workplace culture and staff well-being at Southern Cross University’ shows 82 percent of staff regularly experiencing psychosocial hazards, 44 percent of staff likely to seek medical advice for work-related stress, 63 percent of staff rating SCU workplace culture as negative or extremely negative and 36 percent of staff saying they are likely or very likely to resign from the university
The report suggests that decisions by SCU management, such as a new ‘6 by 6’ teaching model, where subjects are taught in six blocks of six weeks, rather than the traditional university semester, has created impossible workloads and high levels of stress.

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“The results of this survey make for upsetting reading, with many workers resigned to the situation, some even calling Lifeline from their work desk,” said NTEU NSW Assistant Secretary Vince Caughley.

“We had been responding to regular negative reports from our members, and know through our experience of current enterprise bargaining negotiations that SCU management is particularly hostile to union members and staff, but the survey results presented an even worse situation than we had imagined.”

The union is highly critical of SCU management’s practice and approach.

“Two actions by SCU management demonstrate that something is just not right,” Mr Caughley said.

“First they actively blocked staff access to the survey via university email systems and their network, and sent us an angry letter.

“We do these surveys all the time around the country.

“It’s extremely rare that a uni management takes this step, but the survey results might suggest why.

“Second, the university’s main campus is in Lismore, and, obviously, many staff, experienced real trauma following the town’s two devastating flooding events earlier this year.

“But when we requested a formal pause in enterprise bargaining negotiations, they insisted on only a one-week delay – who does that?”

The NTEU is calling for SCU management to urgently address the identified Work Health and Safety issues in consultation with, and in the service of, the SCU community.

The union is also calling on SCU management to commit to negotiated improvements to both job security and workloads through the current enterprise bargaining negotiations.

“SCU is a public institution in receipt of millions of dollars of public money,” Mr Caughley said.

“It’s time for SCU management to reorient its practice in line with community expectations and sector norms.”

A Southern Cross University spokesperson said the University is aware of the recent claims from one of the unions representing a segment of university staff.

She said the National Tertiary Education Union has released the results of a survey of its members in the midst of Enterprise Agreement negotiations but Southern Cross will not be responding to the survey results.

The spokesperson said Southern Cross has been meeting with all unions representing staff since August 2021 and encourages all bargaining parties to bring their concerns to the table in a comprehensive and timely manner.

By Andrew VIVIAN

One thought on “Concerns over staff safety, workplace culture at Southern Cross University

  1. As a former SCU staff member I am not surprised. The workplace culture was toxic to a level I had never encountered before in 40 years of work. I left because I no longer felt safe at work. It has gotten far worse since I left (Nov 2020) and the staff – and students – have my sympathy. I am waiting for a Royal Commission into university management practices. They are beyond the pale. I doubt that the university will survive this management regime. I could tell tales but that is unhelpful. It is tragic because there are so many people who are great employees, who go above-and-beyond, and yet are treated with such disrespect, and whose voices are not heard by managment. A truly sad situation. My advice is: once you recognise you are dealing with a narcissistic psychopath .. RUN

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