Transcribed by Natasha Tonga
VC = Vice-Chancellor Amit Chakma
NM = Nicole McEwen, UWA Education Action Network coordinator
TH = Trevor Humphreys, Director of Campus Management
NM: We have a few questions that we would like to ask you. The first one- thank you- was to- for you to agree to come and see us, so thanks for coming. The second thing is that we would like you to actually show us proof that this deficit exists. Because there’s been a lot of articles in Campus Morning Mail, Pelican has released things, across the country, there’s a WA Today article, a Labour MP said that you’ve used “creative accounting” so… And I don’t just want your words for that, I want you to actually commit that you will give us the ways you’ve calculated things, the ways that- yeah, where all this data is coming from.
VC: We’ll share the appropriate information in a way that you can understand.
VC: Oh yes, yes. Please listen to me. So first of all, I respect your enthusiasm for your university and I thank you for that. And I respect the fact that you are passionate about your courses, right, these are all good things. So here’s the reality, okay? First forget that I am the Vice-Chancellor. I’m a professor, I’m a teacher, right? I’ve been teaching for almost 35, 40 years, depending on where you begin and where you end. So I’m speaking to you as a professor. So one thing I’m pretty sure we have taught you is that we should all understand the issues at hand before making up our minds. Okay? So I’m not saying that you have made up your minds, I’m just explaining the answer you’re asking for.
The reality is that the budget information is so complicated. Right? We give you the budget, you will not be able to drill it through. So take it- you don’t have to trust me. But listen to me, I’m listening to you, so please listen to me. I’m here to simplify it. Okay, so… To operate any organisation, you need ongoing recurring income. So it will be like- how many of you have part-time or full-time jobs? Do you have jobs?
VC: So it’s like equivalent to your salary, okay?
SPECTATOR: So condescending.
VC: So occasionally. So you have your salary. And you have your expenses. So how many of you pay rent? Okay, some of you right? So you understand what I’m saying?
NM: Yeah, yeah we understand that. If we could move on I think-
VC: No, no, no. Let me finish. I don’t want to move on because you need to understand this. You asked me a question, I’ll give you a full answer. So. If you don’t take the full answer then I’ll conclude that you are not listening.
So there is one-time money, okay? So translate that to university, our operating income comes from the fees you pay. One way or the other. Through HECs, through goverNMent grants, fees some full-time students pay. Some donations, some of this and- so that’s our- if you will, equivalent to monthly paycheck. And then we have expenses. We pay salaries. Occasionally- just a sec- occasionally, we get one-time revenue. Okay? So this year, for example, we got about 33 million dollars from the Commonwealth goverNMent- one time- in support of research. We have some equity in a company, we then invested it. It was a company that was set up to provide support for English language testing. Eventually it became a venture all Australian universities have equity interest in it. So it was a successful venture because all of us are suffering from cash shortage. We decided to liquidate our shares. So we get some money. So with one-time money, you can do one-time expenses. You cannot support ongoing expenses. So the confusion is, when you look at our total budget, it looks favourable because we have land, because we have investment, they grow, they shrink. But when you look at our so-called general purpose budget, we have a deficit. So that’s it. Yep, all right, your next one.
SPECTATOR: No, we don’t accept-
NM: Okay, well, so that didn’t actually explain that much. Because we already know that- I’m not gonna take hands for this part- we already know the way that the UWA budget is set up. We know that you have “different pots of money”, as they’re really fond of telling us. I think that there’s not been enough actual transparent data for us, we’re not even allowed to know the methods that you used to calculate a bunch of this stuff and actually was denied the opportunity in academic board to find a bunch of this out. But okay, say I take you at everything you say, and we’re just confused about that, all the rest of that. Say all that was true. I think a way that we can start making cuts while saving jobs would be your salary, for example. And the salaries of all of the executives and people who are paid over 100 thousand or 200 thousand dollars a year at this institution. So are you willing to take a pay cut?
VC: It doesn’t solve the problem. I have taken a significant pay cut from my previous salary. I don’t do this because of money. Right? So-
NM: Okay, what’s your current salary?
VC: So I am only responding because I respect you. I don’t talk about my salary. I want you to know that I’ve taken a cut-
VC: No, no, listen to me.
VC: I want you to know that I have deliberately taken a cut, cause it’s not about money. And my salary is much less than the salary of my predecessor. So I’m not going to go beyond that. Okay?
NM: I’ve heard reports in the media of $700 thousand dollars, is that correct?
VC: That’s not my salary. That was the salary of the previous vice-chancellor, I don’t want to talk about my salary. I find it demeaning that you ask me about my salary.
*Many people speaking at once*
NM: What about the rest of the executives? There’s money obviously here to take people’s salaries down to the median of what this university worker would make-
VC: This is- this is- we are privileged to live in a country that is governed by rule of law.
VC: These people have been hired on a contract and we have to honour the contract. Okay?
NM: But everyone’s been hired on a contract and you’re making them redundant!
SPECTATOR: Every country has a rule of law.
VC: I can be fired like anybody else. Professors, they have to go through a different process.
TH: Nicole, may I suggest-
VC: But that’s not the issue.
TH: Sorry to interrupt you, Vice-Chancellor. May I suggest, if that’s one of your demands, that you’re expecting the executive consider a pay cut, that’s what you should put in writing. You’ve made your point with regard to that. That just needs to be then put in as part of those additional requirements that you have.
NM: Okay, well, I think that- I mean, if you’re not going to open the books to people, if you’re not going to take a further pay cut, and agree to take other people’s pay cut- or maybe you’ll listen to us in writing, we’ll all email you after this, I’m sure. Will you agree to restart the social sciences consultation process because the amendments that you have emailed all students about, we don’t consider them to be amendments, we think it’s a quite significant change to the whole 2 week consultation period. We want the chance to actually let you know again what we think. So will you restart?
VC: The formal consultation process is governed by our enterprise agreement. So I’m not able to give you any commitment one way or the other. We have to let that process unfold, and that process is unfolding as it should.
NM: Okay, but you have said there’s going to be a bunch of amendments, right? And we’re saying well, we don’t get a chance to have a say through the formal-
VC: Because we have a process. I cannot say any more than what I’m saying, except to-
N: If both your side and the NTU [National Tertiary Education Union] agree to re-begin the whole process, can it legally be begun?
VC: No. We are not going to re-begin the whole process.
N: So that’s a confirmation that even if I put it in an email and ask you, and we all ask you-
VC: I’ll listen to what you have to say. But we are not starting the process again.
NM: That’s not really listening or consultation, if you’ve already made a decision.
VC: Your opinion.
*Audience reacts with derision*
SPECTATOR: That’s the opinion of everybody here.
VC: Yes, I respect that.
SPECTATOR: Amit Chakma, just a quick question. What does it mean to engage in good faith, for you? What does- what is the meaning of-
VC: We have engaged in good faith, that’s why we have produced the revised proposal.
SPECTATOR: No, but my question is not have you engaged in good faith-
VC: Yes, absolutely.
SPECTATOR: -is what is the meaning of engagemental good faith for- to you?
VC: Good faith does not mean that we can satisfy everybody’s requests.
SPECTATOR: That’s an evasive answer. Please directly answer the question. What does it mean to engage in good faith?
VC: We have engaged in good faith discussions and will continue to do so.
SPECTATOR: That’s not-
*Conversation breaks out*
NM: Guys, I don’t think there’s much more we’re going to get out of this meeting. I think we should go back out and join the protest, and thank Amit Chakma for his time out of his very, very busy day of cutting jobs. So thank you.
SPECTATOR: Enjoy the champagne!
NM: Alright, let’s get back out! Let’s tell them all what happened here.
TH: Nicole, before you go-
SPECTATOR: You can go out that way-
TH: You can go out that way if you want, it’s not a problem.
NM: Let’s go out the front.
TH: Nicole, guys, may I say, thank you for being civil. I know you didn’t- it’s frustrating, you didn’t necessarily get what you wanted out of it. But it- I’d just say thank you because you did that in a very respectful way.
NM: Alright, let’s go back out to the protest everyone.