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Mentone Grammar sacks 20 staff as virus hits finances

It has also offered parents who are experiencing financial pain fee rebates of 20 per cent this year, biting deeper into the school’s revenue.

“Although a provider of education, we are also a business and like every business in this climate, we need to look at ways at which costs and overheads can be reduced,” the school’s director of business, Nicole Bradshaw, said in an email to affected staff.

Those staff were told on Friday that their positions would be made redundant and their employment terminated unless the school could redeploy them in a new role.

The job cuts were “an unfortunate consequence of COVID-19 and the financial pressure the pandemic will place the school under”, Ms Bradshaw said.

The Age believes at least 22 Mentone Grammar staff were told their jobs would be made redundant on Friday.

Within hours of being emailed about losing their jobs, those staff received another all-staff email from school principal Mal Cater, with three satirically rewritten prayers.

“As we come to the end of the week I thought I would share with you some inspiration the chaplains and I have been working on in our off site learning platform,” Mr Cater wrote.

Among his satirical rewrites of prayers was a reworking of psalm 23:

The Lord is my face mask, I lack nothing.

“He makes me lie down during ‘stretch and prepare’, he leads me beside quiet online students.

“He refreshes my browser. He guides me into the right Zoom meeting for his name’s sake.”

Mr Cater signed off: “Thanks for your work during the week. Best wishes for a relaxing weekend.”

An affected employee at the school said the email, “sent out whilst redundancy meetings were taking place in the school’s boardroom … showed a lack of compassion and understanding”.

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The school has been contacted for comment.

The Independent Education Union said it was disappointing to see employers use the COVID-19 pandemic to ram through redundancies.

“Even if temporary changes to hours or roles during this period of remote learning may be justified on a case-by-case basis, this is clearly not a time to be announcing redundancies or mass lay-offs,” the spokesperson said.

Mentone Grammar is the latest in a number of non-government schools that have sought to cut staff costs in response to the pandemic.

Haileybury stood down dozens of music teachers before back tracking after consulting with parents this month, and Ballarat Clarendon College similarly stepped away from its plan to stand down staff at its King Island campus.

A dispute between Ivanhoe Grammar and the Independent Education Union is scheduled for arbitration at the Fair Work Commission next month over that school’s decision to stand down multiple staff.

The union for teachers at non-government schools and Independent Schools Victoria last week struck an agreement to give schools the ability to reduce general staff members’ pay and hours by up to 25 per cent as some grapple with sharp fee shortfalls caused by the virus.

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