Veteran ABC political reporter Lyndal Curtis is leaving the ABC.

Staff were told of the News24 political editor’s departure in an email from management on Wednesday afternoon, which praised Curtis’ many years of “high-intensity political reporting”. The reporter “has decided that it is time for a well-earned break and is leaving the ABC,” ABC news boss Kate Torney wrote in an email to staff:

“Lyndal has covered more budgets, elections and Prime Ministers than she cares to count and she is renowned for her encyclopaedic knowledge of all matters politics. She will be greatly missed by colleagues across the ABC — please join me in wishing Lyndal all the very best for the future.”

Crikey understands Curtis’ departure isn’t a result of the ABC’s redundancy pools process.

Since 1993, Curtis has worked across both ABC radio and TV in a variety of roles. She is the latest in a series of high-profile names to leave Aunty. Two weeks ago Four Corners executive producer Sue Spencer also announced she would step down, while veteran reporter Quentin Dempster was told three weeks ago he would be made redundant.

By close of business yesterday around 100 ABC staff across a number of divisions were informed of their “potential redundancies”. This means they’ve been placed by management at the bottom of the redundancy pools process being used to determine who goes and who stays. Another 200 staff have been told they aren’t directly in the firing line.

No staff were made redundant yesterday, but some staff could be leaving within the week. The ABC has said it will fast-track redundancies for those it has identified as “potentially redundant” who wish to go. Those targeted for redundancy who wish to stay are being given until the new year to argue their case to management, which committed last week to not forcing any redundancies before Christmas. Yesterday’s process follows Monday’s Fair Work Commission ruling, which allowed the ABC to continue with the pools process provided all decisions are subject to further consultation.

“In accordance with the Fair Work recommendation — which the ABC heartily endorsed — we are running the pools and letting staff know if that process means they are potentially redundant,” an ABC spokesperson said. “So by the end of [Wednesday] most of the approximately 100 staff who are in that situation will know, while more than 200 others will also know that they are not affected, which will give them certainty.”

“It is important to note that, for those 100 who are potentially redundant, consultation continues, and none of them will be leaving straight away unless they want to.”

Many staff Crikey spoke to view a notice for “potential redundancy” as a death sentence. “The delay until Christmas just means you get a few more weeks’ pay, but that’s all. I can’t see how they’d keep any of us after telling us we’re ‘potentially redundant’,” one said, taking aim at the “weasel words” used by management to draw out the process.

But the Community and Public Sector Union assured staff a notice of potential redundancy “is not a formal redundancy notice. It is only advice of a preliminary pools assessment”.

“Consultation is still ongoing, and the unions remain opposed to the pools process currently being proposed by the ABC,” CPSU organiser Sarah Hunt wrote in an email to staff.

Consultations between the CPSU, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance and ABC management continued yesterday. ABC director of people Alan Sunderland told staff in an email the meetings were a good chance for management to explain why the pools had been set up the way there were, and to answer a number of questions about them. He also said it was important to clarify some of the media reporting on the issue.

“Consultation is continuing and no one in those pools is being told that they are redundant — only that they are potentially redundant. This is an important difference, which is why I want to focus on it.

‘Potentially’ redundant means that consultation will continue into the new year and those affected can raise any issues, ask any questions and discuss any matters about their situation either directly with their manager or through the consultation process. The discussion is not over in relation to potentially redundant people and the proposals that have led to the potential redundancies.

There will be some staff who will actually be made redundant and who will leave before Christmas or soon after, but that is only those who have asked to go immediately.”

Crikey understands the unions are pushing for a substitution arrangement, where those tapped on the shoulder for potential redundancy could have their positions saved through the departure of others who want to leave the organisation. The ABC has not committed to any such voluntary redundancy arrangement, though it has agreed to take staff members’ wishes into account in its final decisions.

Many staff wish the process would conclude, with one telling Crikey it’s been “the longest three weeks my life”. “The Friday before Mark Scott made his announcement those of us in the firing line got an email saying we’d have to come in on Monday. And then we had the pools process, and everyone’s just been waiting.”

For those who want to leave the ABC, the wait is ending. But it drags on for everyone else.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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