Between December 2014 and June 2015, the ABC made 238 staff redundant, at a cost of more than $25 million.
The figures are included in answers to Senate estimates questions recently uploaded to the Parliament House website, and are based on the period between December 1 and June 16. The ABC paid, on average, $108,000 per employee it retrenched over the six months.
When announcing cuts of $254 million over five years to the ABC budget in November last year, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull stressed that the Lewis Review into the efficiencies of the two public broadcasters had found back-room efficiencies that would allow the ABC to operate more efficiently without losing significant numbers of staff who produce content. “All of the savings can be found within operational efficiencies of the kind canvassed in the Lewis efficiency study,” he said.
But the answers, provided in response to a question from LNP Senator James McGrath, show 24 staff in the ABC’s business service division were made redundant. More than three times that number, 82, were made redundant in the news division over that period. Another 58 staff in the radio division took redundancy (17 from Radio National), along with 47 in television. Asked how many of those made redundant were journalists, the ABC answered: 45.
On a state-by-state basis, the four states to lose the most staff to redundancy were 113 in New South Wales, followed by 43 in Victoria, 24 in South Australia and 22 in Western Australia.
Of the 238 employees who ultimately took redundancy, 215 decided to accept immediate retrenchment. Another 23 were unsuccessful in securing redeployment opportunities within the organisation.
In November last year, the ABC expected to make 500 redundancies in total as a result of the cuts. It’s now made around half that figure, but the process is ongoing. “It is anticipated that redundancies related to the 2014 budget cut will be completed in 2017,” its submission states.
The redundancies followed the controversial Hunger Games-style retrenchment process where staff identified for potential redundancy were put in pools, and ranked against others doing similar roles to decide whose skills were most surplus to requirements. The process was fiercely opposed by the ABC’s unions, but was ultimately carried out. ABC acting head of people Alan Sunderland told Crikey in January that though the process resulted in significant acrimony, it was “the price you pay for being consultative and transparent”.
“If someone comes up with a way of telling 300 good people they’re no longer required in a way that is welcomed by everyone, I’d love to know what it is,” he said. “You cannot get away from the fact that we’re losing good people.”