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ABC facing up to 250 redundancies in response to $41m ‘budget challenge’

The ABC will need to make up to 250 roles redundant to cope with a $41m budget shortfall, starting with a round of voluntary redundancies across the news, entertainment and specialist, regional and local, and product and content technology teams.

In an all-staff email yesterday, managing director David Anderson said job losses were unavoidable as the public broadcaster wrestles with $41m in government cuts per year until the end of 2022.

Anderson with ABC chair Ita Buttrose

“The budget gap of $41m per annum means that, despite our best efforts, some of our services will be affected and, regrettably, there will be redundancies,” Anderson wrote, noting that more information will be provided in the broadcaster’s five-year plan. The plan was due to be released in March, but was postponed to July as the ABC “turned our attention to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“The indexation pause announced in May 2018, effective from July 2019, applies to our operational funding. The Government booked a saving of $84m over the current triennium or $41m p.a. from FY22 in the budget papers.  Indexation funding remains on our transmission and distribution, however this is contracted over a long period of time, and we are not reducing the ABC’s transmission services over the triennium.”

Last month, research conducted for Get Up by think tank Per Capita claimed that by 2022, Coalition governments will have stripped the ABC of more than $783m in funding. In 2019/20, the ABC’s funding is $879m, representing a decrease in real funding of $367m per year since 1985/86.

The news, entertainment and specialist, regional and local, and product and content technology teams – divisions that will be impacted by more than 10 redundancies – have been asked to volunteer for redundancies through an expression of interest program, enabled by the ABC’s recently-negotiated enterprise agreement.

The expression of interest is not binding, and does not “automatically mean that an employee will get one [a redundancy], that remains at the discretion of the ABC”. Further, the job losses will not be limited to those divisions. “Savings measures will need to be achieved by all ABC teams,” the national broadcaster acknowledged.

The preliminary expression of interest process, which begins today, will be followed by another expression of interest round once the number of redundancies in each division have been finalised. This will involve volunteers for the redundancy packages confirming they still wish to accept a redundancy, and others to “put their hand up if they haven’t already”.

“This has been an arduous year already for all of us and I’m conscious of how many of you must be feeling right now given the uncertainty across our industry and the broader economy,” Anderson added.

“The work of all of you throughout the challenges we have faced together this year has been outstanding and your patience and professionalism are, as always, greatly appreciated.”

Mumbrella understands that the expression of interest program will not be enough to meet the budget cuts, resulting in a number of forced redundancies. However, in a FAQ sheet sent to staff, the ABC said it hopes the voluntary redundancies will hopefully “reduce the number of potential redundancies that are not in response to an expression of interest”.

Staff impacted by the redundancies will leave the business by 30 September, according to the plans.

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