National

Unions condemn ABC job cuts

Unions condemn ABC job cuts

Unions representing staff at the ABC condemned the federal government’s funding cut to the national broadcaster. New ABC managing director David Anderson said on June 24 that more than 250 jobs would go as part of its five-year plan.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which covers a majority of the ABC staff, wants the $84 million funding freeze halted and has called on the government to commit to a consistent five-year ABC funding model.

Since 2014, the ABC has cut more than 1100 jobs because of funding cuts. These latest cuts are not related to COVID-19, but instead are a result of a $84 million funding freeze. They will impact technology, news, entertainment, specialist and local teams, and affect content makers and specialist teams.

Gone will be the ABC comedy channel, the 7.45am News radio broadcast and the ABC Life website. Local content will also be affected with a $5 million cut to independent production, meaning there will be less locally-produced drama and content.

The CPSU ABC Section secretary Sinddy Ealy described the jobs cuts as “utter madness”. “The ABC has already endured over 1100 staff cuts, and today’s announcement will have real implications for remaining staff and workloads … The ABC has delivered through all major crises of this year. The ABC has provided in some cases lifesaving information throughout the droughts, fires and now a health pandemic. It is clear that Australia needs a strong ABC now more than ever.”

By 2022, the Coalition government will have cut more than $783 million from the ABC’s budget since 2014.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which represents journalists, said the cumulative impact of the cuts has stripped the ABC of “newsgathering capacity”.

MEAA spokesperson Paul Murphy said the cuts are a direct result of the indexation freeze on the ABC’s operating revenue imposed by then Treasurer Scott Morrison in the 2018 Budget —effectively an $83.7 million funding cut over three years.

He described the cuts as “ideologically motivated” to undermine the “ABC’s independence and its news gathering ability” which had proved essential during the bushfire crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. He said the ABC’s funding from government is now 30% below what it was in the mid-1980s.

Reuters Institute Digital News Report released a report last week that found the ABC was Australia’s most trusted news brand with a 72% trust rating, Murphy said.

MEAA media federal president Marcus Strom said members were concerned that management was selecting staff for forced redundancies.

“These cuts have a real human cost with 250 people facing unemployment in the middle of a recession and a constrained job market for media professionals,” he said, describing human resources and management’s approach as a “return to the shoulder tapping and ‘Hunger Games’-style pooled redundancies of the past”.