UTS UNION – A BRIEF HISTORY
UTS Union Ltd had a modest beginning in 1973, with a staff of four operating out of a small office on the lower ground floor of Building 4 of the New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT). Membership fees in the first year were $2.50 per semester. The entire student population was part-time students and Union facilities were located in areas that made physical expansion difficult. Accordingly, in the early days, the Board’s energy was directed towards developing a structure for the future and for implementing the first organised social and sporting programs for its members.
By the late 1970s, the Union had limited facilities at Broadway, the Anthony Hordern Building in George Street (Brickfield Hill) and at Gore Hill. Stationery shops at Broadway and George Street represented the Union’s first venture into trading. The Union also provided lounge areas, a small gymnasium in Building 4, social and sporting programs and support for clubs and societies.
A major breakthrough occurred in 1980 when a Commonwealth Government grant of $2 million funded the construction of the Union Centre on Level 3 of the Tower Building at Broadway, thereby enabling the Union to expand its operations. The Centre provided a range of facilities not previously offered. The decision by the Union to employ its own staff in the new food services and bar, in addition to the other service and maintenance staff required to operate the Centre, resulted in the Union becoming a much larger organisation almost overnight and by the end of the year, the Union employed around 50 permanent staff.
From the outset, the new services flourished and, for the first time, the Union was able to achieve significant surpluses which were set aside in asset replacement and capital development reserves. Some of these reserves, together with bank borrowings, were used to fund the construction of the Broadway Sports Centre in Building 4. Completed in 1984, the Sports Centre contained squash courts, gymnasium, fitness and weights rooms, sports offices, a physiotherapy clinic and a hairdresser. Also in 1984, the Union purchased the local Broadway newsagency and acquired the after hours and weekend use of the Quay Street car park which offered discount parking for members. This arrangement continued successfully until 1997 when the owner declined to extend the lease. The Union subsequently operated the car park for another period until 2004.
In 1985, a Union Centre opened in the new Markets campus. At first it comprised only a cafeteria and bar but in 1992 the area was extended to include a Union Shop and a new bar- lounge area. In late 1999, the Markets Union Centre was fully renovated and a franchised food outlet was opened there in 2000 to complement the Union’s self-serve outlet. In 2011, the Union’s space at Markets was relocated and the Union Shop and Eatery were combined to form a new outlet, the Hub, providing both food and beverage services and retail products.
In the late 1980s, large operating surpluses enabled the Union to expand into some non-traditional areas. In 1987, the Union’s Careers and Appointments Service (CAS) commenced and within a short time developed a reputation at least equal to that of much older careers services at other universities. In 1988, the Union purchased the 100-bed Kookaburra Lodge at Jindabyne. The following year, the Union purchased the Imperial, a 35-bed residence in City Road, Chippendale, to provide the University’s first student accommodation and began a free legal service employing a full-time solicitor. This range of miscellaneous services gave UTS Union a reputation amongst other university unions around Australia as an innovative and service-oriented organisation.
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