NICTA begins cull of Victorian jobs

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NICTA begins cull of Victorian jobs

Update: Funding cuts start to bite.

National ICT Australia will today inform at least half of its Victorian research laboratory workers they will no longer be employed at the agency, following a reduction in funding by the Victorian State government.

At least 60 workers are expected to affected under the first round of cuts. The agency is yet to reveal specific figures.

According to NICTA's 2012 annual report to government, NICTA Victoria counted 85 full-time equivalents and 198 head count staff.

NICTA - a body set up to commercialise IT R&D - won funding of $33 million in 2010 for four years under the previous Labor state government, but was informed late last month the now-Coalition state government would “substantially” scale back funding. Figures have not yet been disclosed.

NICTA CEO Hugh Durrant-Whyte informed staff the agency would therefore need to restructure its activities in the state to approximately half its size. 

“I regret to say that there will need to be a significant number of redundancies at VRL as part of this reduction in size and the refocusing of activities. We will work with everyone concerned to make this is painless as possible,” he said in an email to staff at the time.

"NICTA is in the middle of a restructure at our Victorian Lab. Once we have finished our consultations with staff we will be in a position to communicate in more detail. Consultations commenced a couple of weeks ago," a spokesperson said today.

According to an internal email addressed to Durrant-Whyte, sighted by iTnews, staff members have complained of being “mislead” and “kept in the dark” about the process.

The email lists seven reasons the job cuts should not proceed as planned. It argues “the redundancies are not genuine”, that staff were misled about the cuts, and complains about the alleged lack of an open consultation process.

Staff are demanding the consultation process be re-opened and conducted in an “honest and transparent manner”, according to the email.

NICTA’s funding is provided from several state and territory governments and the federal government. 

The agency was recently awarded $42 million in federal funding until 2016 - promised under the previous Labor government - that the Coalition had initially threatened to revoke, ensuring its operations for another few years.

Update 5pm 10/02/14: Victorian Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips has put out a statement clarifying the government's move to cease funding for NICTA operations in the state.

"NICTA is headquartered in New South Wales, and over that period NICTA’s activities have become increasingly Sydney-focused. New South Wales leverages $5 for each $1 it invested in NICTA, compared to Victoria leveraging only $1.50 for each $1 invested," Rich-Phillips said.

"It is important that investments in research programs by the Victorian Government deliver benefits in Victoria.

"The Victorian Government will continue to fund NICTA at a reduced level over the next two years, and has not ruled out considering new funding arrangements with NICTA if they deliver benefits to Victoria. "

A spokesperson for Rich-Phillips declined to provide the figure for the reduced level of investment, citing commercial-in-confidence.

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