Most of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union staff have been laid off with no current plans as to if or when they will be re-hired.
USSU General Manager Caroline Cottrell says that “there will be very few of [them] left” after the layoffs on June 15.
The union has reportedly been facing financial hardships in its operation due to the university’s closure in March. Cottrell says that the union used a portion of their reserves in order to pay employees in May and half of June.
The student union originally issued the layoffs for the month of May, but the USSU senior management decided to continue paying its employees for at least another month in hopes of getting their Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy application accepted in the meantime.
Their application has now been rejected because the union does not have its own unique payroll number.
“We live on the university campus and … we pay [the university] a fee to do our payroll,” Cottrell said. “It allows us to piggyback onto a benefit system that we could not afford.”
Although the USSU uses the university to do its payroll, the union is not dependent on the U of S, says Cottrell. The reason the union uses the university’s system is to save money on hiring human resources to manage the payroll system.
“So it’s not an issue of dependency. It’s an issue of financial prudence,” Cottrell said. “We are incorporated with the nonprofit corporations branch as an entirely separate entity from the university.”
While the USSU was initially hoping to appeal the Canada Revenue Agency’s decision, they have since realized that the CEWS is legally only available for companies that have unique payroll numbers.
“So I don’t know whether they have to do a full legislative review or whether they can do it with an addendum,” Cottrell said. “But I do know that it is very much on their horizons and it is being worked on. What that means in real terms, I have no idea at this point.”
According to Cottrell, many non-profit organizations and sports clubs are also not eligible for the wage subsidy program.
“So the government’s very well aware that the legislation has … sidelined a number of us. [They are] very well aware of that and they are working for a solution,” Cottrell said.
For the time being, Cottrell confirms that some USSU centre coordinators were laid off and some positions were not filled for the summer. However, centre coordinators will likely be hired again in the fall.
“We did not hire center coordinators over the summer and that was the right decision to make. But we are almost certainly going to hire, at least some for the fall term. We’re just trying to work out the logistics,” Cottrell said.
“At this point, I will tell you it is our intent to provide as much in the way of center coordinators as is reasonably possible.”
Cottrell says that the union will continue to be there for students to the extent that they are able to based on guidelines from health authorities.
“I want to be very clear that everybody who works at the USSU and all the staff who work at the USSU are absolutely committed to the student voice and student unionism,” Cottrell said.
Wardah Anwar | News Editor
Photo: Victoria Becker