SOME La Trobe University Bendigo staff say they have been prevented from having an open debate with their union about a new scheme designed to protect jobs.
It comes after the National Tertiary Education Union and the Australian university sector agreed to the Jobs Protection Framework.
The union said the framework could save more than 12,000 jobs that would be cut nationally due to COVID-19.
La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar flagged there could be voluntary redundancies and job cuts at his university, as the institution was facing a shortfall of between $33 million and $63 million in 2020, and between $80 million and $115 million in 2021.
He said that was the financial equivalent of between 200 and 800 jobs in the next two years.
La Trobe Bendigo lecturer Kathleen Pleasants said the NTEU held a meeting about the framework with the La Trobe branch on Thursday.
Ms Pleasants said union members were told prior to the meeting they would be able to ask questions.
But she said during the virtual meeting, all union members were left on mute and the chat function was disabled.
"I have been in unions since I was 15," Ms Pleasants said. "It is not the first time I haven't agreed with the union's position. That's life.
"But we should be able to have an open debate. I expect them to be open and democratic. I don't expect to go to a meeting and not be allowed to speak."
NTEU Victorian Division assistant secretary Sarah Roberts said the measures were implemented to keep the debate civil.
"Having the separated chat function was unhelpful for getting business done," Ms Roberts said. "In the past and in the La Trobe branch, the chat function has turned into an aggressive and abusive space.
"We decided to turn off the chat function so we could have a respectful meeting space."
Ms Pleasants said some staff were concerned the framework would severely compromise work hours and pay for many.
"The problem for me is the union has been doing these negotiations at a national level without telling members about it," she said. "We only found out about it very recently."
Ms Roberts said the NTEU had been transparent.
"It's completely fair to have that debate around the framework," she said. "But the other allegations are unfounded.
"The idea of the framework was first sent to all staff and members on April 8. We're now at the end of May.
"So I think the notion that there hasn't been any notifications or consultation is not correct."
The La Trobe branch will have another meeting on Wednesday, where members will vote on the Jobs Protection Framework.
Ms Roberts said the chat function would be open during the virtual meeting.
"We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to speak to the motion," she said. "But I will be chairing the meeting and I will need to be clear that people will need to be respectful."
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