News

Australia Post shop front at Melbourne University

Return to Sender

By Erin Handley.

First published Friday 9 November 2012 in Farrago.

The Melbourne University post office will close up shop today, like every Friday afternoon, but this week it may be for the last time. The post office needs to relocate due to the demolition of the Architecture building—but in a controversial decision by Australia Post, the post office will be closed permanently and will not be re-established elsewhere on campus.

The decision comes as a shock, as the post office services 30,000 staff and students. The Melbourne University post office was the 6th most profitable out of 190 post offices in Victoria and Tasmania in July this year, according to Shirley Winton, organizer from the Victorian branch of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

But Sarah Gordon, spokesperson for Australia Post, said that this figure on the profitability of the post office was “incorrect and misleading,” although she did not cite an alternative figure.

Australia Post “are seeing year on year declining customer numbers,” Ms Gordon explained. Many services including letters, bill payments and banking “are impacted by digital substitution,” she said.

“With this trend continuing it is not sustainable to continue to provide our services in the current format,” Ms Gordon said.

John DuBois, director of Communications at Melbourne University, confirmed that “several sites were considered around the campus” for the relocation of the post office, but ultimately, the closure “was a business decision for Australia Post”.

As outlined in their own policy, Australia Post is obliged to balance its commercial obligations with its obligations to community service.

Australia Post intends to meet this obligation by replacing the post office with a Community Postal Agency (CPA). The CPA will operate as part of the Uni Store in the basement of Union House, and will offer some postal services, such as stamps and packaging products. Australia Post will also provide a new 24/7 postal outlet at Building 161, Monash Road. According to Australia Post, this outlet “will house post office boxes, a postal vending machine and 24/7 smart parcel lockers” but not the full range of services that the current post office provides.

The dramatic reduction of the services on offer is expected to negatively impact the Melbourne University community, as many staff and students use the post office on a regular basis.

The postal services that will no longer be provided at Melbourne University, or will be limited in their availability, include weighing and assessing articles for domestic and overseas postage, bill pay, banking and EFTPOS transactions, passport photos, purchase of foreign currency, issuing and paying money orders, mobile recharge, and stationary.

The CPA will be unable to lodge 100 point ID verification, Working With Children Check applications, Work Safe applications, or passport applications.

Other limited or discontinued services will include acceptance of mail redirection and PO Box applications, fax services, money orders, and the purchase and lodgement of parcel post, plus registered, express and courier products and services to domestic and international locations.

Joan Doyle, Secretary of the Victorian branch of the CWU, described the diminished service as “bloody useless, really”.

Ms Doyle also confirmed that Australia Post staff and the Melbourne University community did not receive consultation in regards to the closure. This is a breach of the Australia Post’s Community Postal Agency Agreement, which states that the closure of an outlet requires community participation and consultation, and that this consultation process should take place at least six weeks prior to implementing the change.

“They’ve quite deliberately left things until the last minute so that we couldn’t find a solution,” Ms Doyle said.

The breach prompted the Communication Workers Union to lodge a dispute with Fair Work Australia, heard last week on 1 November. Ms Doyle said the outcome of the dispute was that “the commissioner asked Australia Post to provide us with more information, which we’ve got.”

Ms Doyle suggested that “Australia Post have really not acted in good faith with this at all,” as “the local postal manager wasn’t consulted on any of this—they put out a letter under his name and he never even saw the letter.”

There are also concerns for the staff at the Melbourne university post office. “The current staff want to stay where they are,” Ms Doyle said. “They don’t want to be relocated to other places and they’re very attached to their customers.”

One member of the post office staff, who has been working at the Melbourne Uni outlet for a number of years, said that there wasn’t much to say about the closure, and that they were as surprised as the rest of the university community by Australia Post’s decision.

Australia Post believes that “the Parkville area is well serviced with a number of post offices within less than one kilometre radius.” However, Ms Winton of the CWU said “when you’re looking at a community of 30,000, it’s not really satisfactory.”

“Our understanding is that they don’t want to spend any of those profits made at the Melbourne University Post Shop on the refurbishment—refurbishing a new retails centre,” Ms Winton added.

This is not the first time that the post office at Melbourne University has faced closure.

“Two years ago, Australia Post tried to close down the retail shop, but with the intervention of staff and students and the university administration—and Adam Bandt from the local Greens—that was stopped,” Ms Winton said.

The CWU and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) are urging Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis to keep the post office open until mid-December to allow time for all the parties to find an alternative solution. Ted Clark, Melbourne University NTEU Branch Secretary, said that he had received confirmation that the Vice Chancellor was looking into the situation.

 

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Yellow tape reads 'Danger! Asbestos Hazard' behind chain link fence

Yet More Asbestos

By Erin Handley.

First published Monday, 8 October 2012 in Farrago.

The George Paton Gallery has temporarily closed its doors to artists while the air is monitored for airborne asbestos fibres. The Gallery, situated on the second floor of Union House, expects to reopen in late October once it has received a full clearance certificate.

Trevor White, CEO of Melbourne University Student Union Ltd (MUSUL), specified that the closure of the Gallery is “a precaution [because] there’s some asbestos in the ceiling of the Union Theatre and the Theatre wall abuts the Gallery”.

Mr White confirmed that “more than likely there will be” future asbestos discoveries in Union House.

“It’s probably an issue that will go on for some time, to try and find out and eradicate the asbestos from the university,” he said.

He specified that so far the asbestos levels are “all in the allowable limits”.

“There were audits done in 2008 so we know where the stuff is and it’s contained so now they’re doing a new audit.”

“There’s probably asbestos in every building in Melbourne. It’s a matter of making sure it’s contained. The trouble was the stuff in the ceiling has broken down,” Mr White added.

Student exhibitions booked into the Gallery from the start of September until the end of October will be forced to find alternative venues to showcase their art. Jake Preval’s series of sculpturally informed photographs, Costumes for the Ark, is one such exhibition, along with Georgia Anson, En-En See and Erin Tily-Laurie’s Come with us, Claudia Phares’ It’s conceivable!, and Alex Jaunozols, James Tunks and Kalinda Vary’s Seeing the Unseen.

Preval admitted that the George Paton closure was a setback for his exhibition: “It’s really unfortunate but as it’s beyond anyone’s control you just have to roll with it,” he said.

Preval confirmed that it’s been difficult to find an alternate space for his exhibition “due to the tight timeframe”.

Nonetheless, he expressed his gratitude to the George Paton Gallery team. “They have been incredibly helpful in attempting to locate a new space for the work and have also been very supportive. They were very open about the situation and contacted us immediately,” he said.

The recent discovery of asbestos has been unfortunate for the cultural arts at Melbourne University; the George Paton Gallery is the third closure of a cultural space in Union House this semester. Farrago reported that the Union Theatre was closed in August for asbestos removal. The Des Connor rehearsal room will also be closed until the end of semester, as the entrance is inaccessible “due to the asbestos removal work in the Union Theatre,” according to Union House Theatre eNews.

Fortunately, all eight productions booked into the Union Theatre this semester have been able to find alternative venues.

Building at Melbourne University

Union Theatre Asbestos Scare

By Erin Handley.

First published 5 September 2012 by Farrago.

Union Theatre has been closed to allow for the removal of asbestos in the ceiling. It is anticipated that the theatre will remain closed until the end of October. As many as eight productions were booked into the Union Theatre during this period and have been forced to find alternative venues.

On 10 August 2012, suspected hazardous building materials were analysed by LRM Global, an independent hazardous materials consultant. They found that asbestos was present in the ceiling space above Union Theatre and the projector room. Further analysis found that asbestos was also in the ceiling and internally within the projector room.

Further samples were taken from the Union Theatre stage and front of house for testing, but no further asbestos was discovered in these areas.

It is likely that those who have entered the ceiling spaces above Union Theatre will have been exposed to friable asbestos, Diane Spires, a University spokesperson for the OHS and Injury Management Department, confirmed.

“We are continuing to seek advice from the hazardous materials consultants as to the potential level of exposure,” Spires said.

When asbestos is crumbled or reduced to powder it can release airbourne fibres that pose a health risk. Friable asbestos can be disturbed by light pressure, while non-friable asbestos is unlikely to release airbourne fibres unless damaged by significant force, such as drilling or sawing.

She stated that so far “airborne asbestos fibre levels have not exceeded 1/10th of the occupational exposure standard.”

Productions previously booked into Union Theatre now seeking alternative theatres include Union House Theatre’s own 1938: An Opera, Ormond College’s Spring Awakening, Chinese Music Group’s December Rains, MU Chinese Theatre Group’s Sand and a Distant Star, St Mary’s College’s Back to the 80s, Queen’s College’s Fawlty Towers, the 2012 Med Revue: Lawrence of the Labia, and Flare Dance Ensemble’s Revelation.

Fregmonto Stokes, writer of 1938: An Opera, said that “obviously it’s a disappointment not to be able to use Union Theatre.” Despite this setback, he acknowledged “asbestos is such a notoriously dangerous material” and “if it’s discovered and it can’t be safely encapsulated it should be removed straight away.”

The opera has sought out a number of theatre options and will have confirmed one when Farrago goes to print. Stokes specified, however, that “the most important element [of the opera] is the cast, not the space.”
Further updates can be found at https://safety.unimelb.edu.au/uniontheatre/

Economics books on library shelf

Library Job Cuts: Update

By Erin Handley.

First published Monday, 25 July 2011 in Farrago.

The University of Melbourne intends to cut 13 staff from the Baillieu and ERC libraries, according to a draft proposal obtained by Farrago.

It is feared that the staff cuts will result in reduced opening hours, an increasingly disorderly collection, and more difficulties for students in locating the books they need.

The 13 positions to be cut involve shelving, lending, and handling enquiries. These “front of house” employees are to be replaced with 4.5 new positions at a higher level of responsibility and pay rate.

The 13 staff were informed of the proposed redundancies on 23 May at a confidential meeting, the doors to the meeting room guarded by security guards.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) denounced these pre-emptive tactics and the secretive method in which the information was conveyed to staff.

“The manner has been atrocious, heavy-handed and disrespectful,” said Ms Melanie Lazarow, Secretary for the NTEU Melbourne branch.

Deputy Librarian Jenny Ellis cited many reasons for the proposed changes, including the need for a more highly-skilled workforce, cost containment, and the automation of services, such as self-checkout machines, booksorters and online resources. “We are living in a digital world,” Ms Ellis said, “and that means that library usage has changed a lot, and staffing requirement has changed as well.”

“We’re aiming to have staff who have the professional knowledge and are equipped to deal with whichever complex queries come along. So we hope that we are going to be providing an enhanced service,” Ms Ellis said.

As a result of the Baillieu redevelopment, there will be only one loans desk plus areas dedicated to extended hours access. This means fewer staff will be required.

One library employee, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that the “last minute announcement” seemed to target staff who had expressed “vocal opposition to various aspects of the Baillieu redevelopment”.

Ms Ellis has since rejected this allegation. “The proposed changes relate to roles and not to individuals,” she said.

The proposal heightens widespread concerns about a general trend towards reducing services in the libraries, as well as fears that the libraries, as a whole, are understaffed. “Things like collections, reshelving, that all is very understaffed,” said Corey Rabaut, Industrial Organiser for the NTEU, said. “That’s in quite poor form right now, and the university’s acknowledged that.”

During the most recent exam period, books in the Baillieu library were overflowing in every single area for the first time ever. Normally only books in the 300s section overflow at this time of year. Library staff members believe that this is due to staffing shortages.

“If all 13 positions were made redundant, I think that it would lead to a decrease in service towards the staff and students,” Mr Rabaut said.

“When you go in, there’s not going to be that face-to-face service where you can ask specific enquiries and you can ask about certain things or assistance finding that book.”

The outcome may be not only structural, but personal.

“I’ve just been told I may be out of a job at the same time I’m going to have my first child,” confided Morgan Saletta, one of the affected library staff.

Since June, library management has widened the scope of who is considered “affected staff” and have extended the pre-consultation time. Mr. Rabaut approved of this decision. “It’s important for staff and for the university to consult with the wider university community, and that does include students,” he said.

The NTEU plans to hold a protest on Tuesday 2 August between 12:30 and 1:30pm. Members of the university community are invited to bring a book to the ERC library foyer for a read-in. The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) has pledged its support.

 

Books on book shelves

Job Cuts Planned at Libraries

First published Thursday 23 June 2011 in Farrago.

NTEU denounces threats to ERC and Baillieu librarians, writes Erin Handley.

The University of Melbourne intends to cut 13 staff from the Baillieu and ERC libraries, according to a draft proposal obtained by Farrago.

Library management staff have deemed these jobs “excess to requirement” and are instead opting for fewer, higher-trained positions.

The 13 positions to be cut involve work at the library loans desk. They are to be replaced with 4.5 new positions at a higher level of responsibility and pay rate.

Thirteen “directly affected” staff were informed of the proposed redundancies on 23 May at a confidential meeting, the doors to the meeting room guarded by security personnel.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) denounced these pre-emptive tactics and the secretive method in which the information was conveyed to staff, arguing that all library staff would be affected by any redundancies.

“The manner has been atrocious, heavy-handed and disrespectful,” said Ms Melanie Lazarow, Secretary for the NTEU Melbourne branch.

Reasons given for the proposal include the need for a more highly-skilled workforce, cost containment, and the automation of services, such as self-checkout machines, booksorters and e-resources. The redevelopment of the library will also result in a single service point model: there will be only one loans desk per library, with areas dedicated to extended hours access. This means fewer staff will be required, according to the proposal.

HR Manager and Acting Senior Adviser Catherine Frecker was unavailable for phone interview but instead issued an email response to questions posed byFarrago. She reiterated that the proposal is a draft, and explained that the way “students and staff use the Library and the type of services they demand has changed. Clients now want faster transactional services, like loans and returns.”

One library employee, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that the “last minute announcement” seemed to target staff who had expressed “vocal opposition to various aspects of the Baillieu redevelopment”.

The proposal “seems more like it’s a chance to get rid of people that are seen as troublemakers, rather than something that’s based on the actual operational needs of the library,” this staff member said.

When asked to comment on employees’ concerns about being targeted as “troublemakers”, Ms Frecker responded: “The Library is improving services to staff and students to meet changing client needs and to bring service levels in line with national and international standards for academic institutions.”

The proposal heightens widespread concerns about a general trend towards reducing services in the libraries. It is feared that the staff cuts will result in reduced opening hours, an increasingly disorderly collection, and more difficulties for students in locating the books they need.

The outcome may be not only structural, but personal.

“I’ve just been told I may be out of a job at the same time I’m going to have my first child,” confided Morgan Saletta, one of the affected library staff.

NTEU Secretary Ms Lazarow said of the draft proposal: “It’s not a proposal. We think it’s just a couple of sketchy notes.”

The proposal “anticipates the loss of 13 staff without a considered idea behind the loss of staff,” she said.

According to the proposal, workshops are to be held with affected staff in order to “support them to understand the proposed changes, and obtain their feedback”. However, the NTEU passed a motion on 23 May that regarded “workshops with only the targeted staff as inappropriate and as pre-empting an outcome”.

“I believe they are going about the Change Management process by… defining only those 13 as directly affected, whereas everyone’s affected, starting with the people left behind to cope with increased workloads,” Ms Lazarow said.

She also noted “the NTEU wishes to, in fun and exciting ways, get its message of a well-resourced, well-staffed library across to the university community”.

 

Old Quad at Melbourne University

USMU Indigenous Officer Terminated

By Erin Handley.

First published Monday 21 February 2011 in Farrago.

Kyle Dadleh, the Indigenous Officer of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), has been terminated from his position after he failed to pay membership fees to the student union. Constitutionally, all student representatives must be members of the student union in order to continue in their posts.

This is a further blow to Indigenous representation at the university, as the student elections in 2010 failed to elect an Indigenous Representative for Students’ Council.

UMSU Secretary Dominique Ottobre noted in her report for Students’ Council: “This is also highly problematic in that of the 10 positions for Indigenous student representation across UMSU and VCAMSA, none are now filled.”

New models of representation for Indigenous students are being investigated by Ms Ottobre, President Rachael Lim and UMSU Manager Justin Baré, in conjunction with the Centre for Indigenous Education (CIE), in order to resolve the issue.

They intend to “contact Indigenous students and conduct a review of Indigenous representation within UMSU,” the report added, “as it is clear that the current model isn’t working, and hasn’t been working for some time.”

“This has been a recurring pattern over the last few years,” she continued.

“The aim is not to abolish the Indigenous department,” Ms Ottobre explained to Farrago, “but to develop a model that actually engages Indigenous students.”

Kyle Dadleh was unable to be reached for comment by deadline.