Non-academic staff at Massey University are fighting proposals to cut more than 70 jobs across campuses, and substantially alter other roles.
Among those affected are campus tradespeople, timetabling staff and venues workers, and the restructure comes as Massey faces a financial black hole.
Staff whose jobs are on the line at the university's campuses in Palmerston North, Auckland and Wellington are urging the university to reconsider the restructure.
One affected worker, who RNZ agreed not to identify because of the effect it could have on their job prospects, said those facing unemployment included people with decades of experience.
"It's crucial. They're electricians, fitters, and the plumber, the tradespeople who really know where things are and how to keep things working if you have services go out.
"And there's people affected, and [they] will not lose their jobs, but their jobs will be broader."
Staff in the timetabling office could have their roles altered, and the Manawatū campus plumber's role could go.
"That means that if there's a blocked toilet or a leak or something - something that would be a health and safety risk happens, including blocked drains in one of the labs, then they won't be able to attend quickly," the worker said.
Massey has asked for staff feedback.
Tertiary Education Union organiser Ben Schmidt said affected staff were not given enough information about what the altered roles would look like.
"Members need the relevant information to respond, and knowing how much any proposed jobs would pay is the bare minimum that members need.
"We have requested that. The employer has yet to provide that, and that is just another example of how poorly thought through this whole proposal is."
It's expected Massey may confirm what will happen early next week, but Schmidt said the university should go back to the drawing board.
"This is a horrific proposal. It would cut 72 jobs, many of these long-serving staff.
"These are essential positions, from timetabling to plumbers and venue assistants - people who actually make campus work."
The proposal comes as Massey, like any university missing its foreign students, faces financial stress.
In its latest published financial statements, the university's operating deficit for the seven months to the end of July was $15.3 million, $5.4m more than expected.
Its income for the year was $5.8m below budget, at $292.3m. This was partly due to lower international and domestic student enrolments.
RNZ asked for updated figures, but was told these were not available.
In a statement Massey said the proposed new structure was in line with the university's needs, and that it had been working with staff since July.
"The proposal for change for national facilities, operations and sustainability staff, released last month, is focusing on consolidating and rationalising functions to create a structure that is more closely aligned with the university's needs so we are well placed to deal with current and future challenges."
Massey said it had been working with staff since July, and feedback on the proposal was significant.
"Feedback from staff on the proposal for change is currently being reviewed, and no final decisions will be made with regards to the outcome of this review until all feedback has been thoroughly considered.
"It would be purely speculative to give any indication of the outcome of the proposal for change while the process is still ongoing."
The staff member RNZ spoke too remains sceptical, and said people at the university were worried, upset and angry.
Those who would remain faced the prospect of being over-loaded, they said.