The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Massive round of layoffs looms: colleges and units unaffected so far will soon see job cuts

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Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn (left) addresses university staff and students alongside Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler at a town hall meeting Feb. 26 in Convocation Hall. It was the fourth update in a continuing series meant to brief campus on the university’s projected budget deficit.
Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn (left) addresses university staff and students alongside Acting Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler at a town hall meeting Feb. 26 in Convocation Hall. It was the fourth update in a continuing series meant to brief campus on the university’s projected budget deficit.

The University of Saskatchewan is gearing up to execute a second and more extensive round of job cuts between now and the end of April.

In recent months there have been a total of 50 jobs lost from 13 colleges and administrative units. By the end of April, the remaining 75 per cent of colleges and units that have so far gone unaffected will see layoffs.

There will be “quite a few more positions [lost] in the next round, but we don’t have an exact number,” Acting Vice-President of Finance and Resources Greg Fowler told reporters following a financial town hall meeting on campus Feb. 26.

As part of the university’s “workforce planning” initiative, central administrators have asked all college deans and unit managers to revamp their current employee structure. The plan is meant to combat a growing budget deficit projected to reach $44.5 million by 2016, if no pre-emptive actions are taken.

Employee salaries and benefits account for about 75 per cent of the university’s operating costs.

“We’re looking at making the bulk of the changes by the end of April,” Fowler said.

The 50 job losses already enacted have been mostly non-academic support staff and have come from the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, dentistry, nursing, law, Edwards School of Business, Campus Safety, the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, Consumer Services, Corporate Administration, Information and Communications Technology, the University Library, Student and Enrolment Services and the provost’s office.

The layoffs have resulted in $2.5 million in savings, while scrapping a planned increase to non-salary expenses — like travel budgets  — has saved an additional $2.5 million. The total $5 million saved amounts to just over 10 per cent of what is needed by 2016.

Fowler would not speculate on how much the university is looking to save as a result of the next round of layoffs, but pointed to Facilities Management as an example of a “larger” unit that will undergo significant job cuts.

“We have our consultants working with them to look at positions and work through some of the options for them to reduce their workforce,” he said.

The university has hired Meyers Norris Penny, an accounting and financial consulting firm, to provide transitional counselling services to all laid off employees. The transition counsellors are trained to safely escort laid-off employees off campus.

“The time that they spend with this transition expert is really [focused] around helping them work through their emotions,” said Barb Daigle, associate vice-president of human resources, at the town hall meeting.

“First reaction is anger, then shock and denial. People sometimes want to have an argument, and some get really angry…. I’ve seen people stand up and throw things or put their fist through a wall. People do not want to have those kind of reactions in front of their [former] co-workers, in front of their friends or in front of their [former] bosses.”

The counsellors are asked to remain with laid off employees until it is safe for them to drive, or until they arrange for a taxi. If requested, employees can return to campus after a day or two to say goodbye to co-workers or arrange a farewell gathering.

As for TransformUS, the university’s initiative to reallocate funds according to program rankings, an announcement will be made next week regarding the composition of the two task forces that will lead the plan. Once members are in place, they will begin to rank programs according to a set of priorities that has yet to be determined.

One undergraduate and one graduate student will sit on each task force. The task forces’ final reports — which will include recommendations to administrators on which university programs should receive increased funding, which should see reduced funding, which should merge with other programs or be cut — are due to the president by November 30.

“In addition to TransformUS and workforce planning, we are also looking at ways to become more efficient, primarily in our administrative functions, such as our travel and expense system, streamlining our procurement processes, reducing or eliminating internal billings, and reviewing our fee-for-service activity,” Fowler said.

The next financial town hall will be held on May 23, 2013 from 12-1 p.m. in Convocation Hall. It will be the fifth in the ongoing series of financial updates.

The layoffs to date
  • Centre for Continuing and Distance Education: 1
  • Campus Safety: 1
  • Corporate Administration: 2
  • College of Dentistry: 2
  • College of Nursing: 2
  • Provost’s Office – Institutional Planning and Assessment: 2
  • Information and Communications Technology: 2
  • College of Law: 3
  • Arts & Science – Division of Humanities and Fine Arts: 5
  • Edwards School of Business: 5
  • Student and Enrolment Services Division: 6
  • Consumer Services: 7
  • University Library: 12


Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf

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