Cutbacks at the University of Victoria has resulted in the layoff of at least 24 employees so far, as departments seek to cut four per cent from their budgets this year.
Melissa Moroz, labour relations officer for the Professional Employees Association, calls it a “very sad situation” that UVic handed pink slips to two dozen of their full-time workers, including some who’ve been employed at the university since the 1980s.
“It’s devastating to these people’s lives, and it will directly impact services to both faculty and students,” Moroz said. “There’s only so much people can do.”
The lost jobs will come from a variety of places, she said, adding many of the employees work in technical support, scientific support and research support. Some of those laid off are already gone, while others will continue to work until spring 2013.
Moroz called this an “unprecedented amount of layoffs.” She’s seen one-off job losses in the past due to organizational changes, but never anything near to this many at once. “There’s a lot of uneasiness and fear that’s been generated as a result of these layoffs.”
A 2012-13 budget framework document on UVic’s website cites inflation pressure and decreased or flat post-secondary funding from government as reasons for consecutive four-per-cent budget reductions over the next two school years.
Gayle Gorrill, vice president finance and operations, confirmed the university is planning for budget reductions of four per cent effective April 1, 2013.
Given that salaries and benefits comprise almost 80% of our total operating budget, there will unfortunately be some job losses. Where there are job losses, we have provided compensation consistent with the terms of the agreements with our employees.
Tom Smith, the university’s executive director of facilities management spoke to the ways his department is meeting budget demands.
He expects to lose eight janitors in the next two years through attrition, and the frequency of vacuuming and garbage collection from many places on campus will be reduced, as well, beginning in January.
“Instead of a janitor being responsible for an average 27,000 square feet of building, they’ll be responsible for 29,000 square feet of building. In order to do that, they have to stop doing certain things,” Smith said.
Cleaning of classrooms and offices will be reduced from five times a week to three. Waste removal in private offices and cubicles will be reduced from twice weekly to once a week.
Washrooms, lounges, hallways, entrances, science labs and research spaces will not see a reduction in janitorial service levels.
“Everything you do (to meet budget demands) has an impact,” Smith says. “I think everybody’s looking for ways to reduce their budget in ways other than affecting people.”
Rob Park, president of CUPE 917 at UVic, says reducing janitorial levels affects temporary workers in his union in the immediate future.
“There’s lots of temporary workers up at UVic who are given an appointment for five months or whatever,” he says. “What the university’s doing is reducing the service levels so there isn’t work for them.”
“We’re concerned that UVic seems to be cutting what we consider to be core services. We think they could probably make the cuts elsewhere,” adds Greg Melnechuk, president of CUPE 4163. His union represents sessional instructors. While there haven’t been layoffs there, he says the number of classes offered continues to decrease.
“We’ve had a 14-per-cent drop for our sessional instructors in work for them in the last two years. This is directly impacting education up at UVic,” Melnechuk said.
UVic Faculty Association president Doug Baer said his members aren’t seeing layoffs, but they’ll be impacted by the cuts elsewhere. He suspects the university’s financial position isn’t as bad as it’s being made out to be.
“There is some concern out there that the cuts are excessive, given the financial position of the university. I am of the view that the university resources do not appear to justify the level of cutbacks we’re seeing,” Baer said.
“I think it’s short-sighted to not invest in education,” added Moroz of the PEA, pointing to greater need from the provincial government. “It all just comes down to priority. Is funding post-secondary education a priority for people in British Columbia?”