150 uni jobs 'under threat'

By Samantha Turnbull

Kylie Lucas is one of 150 people employed at Southern Cross University whose job is threatened under Federal Government plans to axe compulsory student unionism.

It is also estimated the plan could cost the local economy $2.5 million.

About 160 SCU staff and students marched through the Lismore CBD yesterday to protest against the legislation.

Kylie Lucas is a gym attendant and gave up a stable job in retail a year ago to pursue her dream of working in the fitness industry.

Now she fears the decision could leave her unemployed after the Government vowed to introduce voluntary student unionism legislation when it takes control of the upper house in July.

SCU students currently pay annual union fees which give them access to a range of services offered by the union, known as Campus Central, and the Student Representative Council.

Campus Central general manager, Loretta Brandolini, said the union injected $2.5 million into the Lismore economy last year by spending money on local suppliers for facilities such as the university bistro and bar.

The union also employs 150 people, including Ms Lucas.

"I'm worried about not having an income, especially with a unit to pay off," she said.

"I've got bar experience I could fall back on, but I really enjoy working here and don't want to leave."

The protestors, wearing black Tshirts emblazoned with the slogan 'No VSU', yesterday walked from Magellan Street to the office of Federal Member for Page Ian Causley.

There, student representatives met Mr Causley to discuss their concerns about the Federal Government's plan.

"We need to tell Mr Causley what he needs to do to help us get rid of this mean, mean legislation," Student Representative Council chairwoman, Megan Harris, told the crowd.

"VSU is the death knell for our student associations and we will lose our dentist, free tea and coffee, copy and print shop ? you name it."

However, Mr Causley said the students were referring to the worst case scenario.

"I think services like the university canteen could be provided by the private sector," he said.

"Services like the dentist and counselling could be at risk, but what I've suggested is that I will argue for the uni to be allowed to charge fees for students who don't join the union body but want to use services the union provides.

"Coalition policy for the past 20 years has been voluntary unionism."

Ms Harris said she was unhappy with Mr Causley's response, but appreciated his willingness to compromise.

"We're happy he was willing to listen," she said.

"What he suggested was a compromise, but by no means the optimum outcome."

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