UPEI cuts 35 jobs

Ryan Ross
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

UPEI logo

UPEI staff who are losing their jobs will likely know their fate after the university sent notice Wednesday that it was laying off 35 people as part of its plan to balance its budget.

Bill McKinnon, a representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said any layoffs are difficult for the affected employees and it would be disingenuous to say it wasn't a significant amount.

"It's huge," he said.

UPEI is required by law to bring in a balanced budget and with the school's departments asking for $9-million more than was available that meant the university had to cut somewhere.

This year the financial situation led to UPEI raising its tuition by $21 per course or $210 a year for a full course load.

The provincial government gives UPEI funding but cut how much it gives by three per cent last year.

Its funding level stayed the same this year.

McKinnon said the university sent the union an email Wednesday morning advising that layoff notices were going out.

Most, if not all, of the 35 layoffs will be permanent staff who are CUPE members.

Along with the layoffs, there have been other staffing changes made including some retirements and term positions that won't be filled, along with contract employees who have had their hours reduced.

McKinnon said he doesn't expect the full effect of the cuts to hit until September because the unionized employees have 15 business days to choose one of three options: bump another employee, accept a severance package or be laid off with the possibility of being recalled.

In an email UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz sent to the university community he called it a difficult day for the school and said the people affected were coworkers, neighbours and friends.

"Their contribution to this university has been significant and in some cases long-term, and I sincerely regret that the fiscal challenges we face as an institution necessitate these most painful decisions," Abd-El-Aziz said.

UPEI is encouraging people who were affected to take advantage of assistance available through the university's human resources department and the Employee and Family Assistance Program.

The email said Service Canada approved UPEI's participation in a workforce reduction program that would help people who want to resign to make way for colleagues to keep their job.

Abd-El-Aziz said the days ahead will be challenging and the members of the university community must support their colleagues as the process unfolds.

"I encourage you to do your utmost to demonstrate the level of caring and compassion that we are known for at this university and in this province," he said.

A request was made to speak with someone from the university administration but no one was available Wednesday.

Meanwhile, McKinnon said the union still has questions about how the university's finances got in such bad shape when they weren't as bad last year when the province cut its funding to UPEI.

"Not even close," he said.

CUPE has asked for a meeting with Premier Robert Ghiz, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and Advanced Learning Minister Al Roach to talk about the issue.

A spokesman for the premier said the meeting is in the process of being scheduled for early June.

Opposition leader Steven Myers said the government has money to spend on UPEI and talks about education being a priority but it doesn't seem to show it.

"It's just a matter of picking your priorities," he said.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

 

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Fed up
    May 23, 2013 - 09:22

    It's time PEI govt started investing in young people's futures and support their university! Take a lead from Memorial! This bunch too busy straightening roads that don't need it, borrowing more and more money, giving it to the foreigners who start building...then go bankrupt...give them more, etc. building round abouts, traffic light for friends...start giving where they should! To our youth! 35 jobs gone. All low to middle income. Get rid of some of the top brass...same with government...make THEM take a pay cut! How did we bet this far in debt? They just keep spending and, like our government, go to youth and their parents to bail them out!

  • Quiet Observer
    May 23, 2013 - 07:30

    It is time for UPEI to use more common sense. It needs to look at its class sizes and drop those courses that are not getting enough students to justify their existence. UPEI knows how much it costs to put on a course. Therefore, if knows how many students it needs in a course to break-even. And it can do a weighted calculation for the courses that have huge enrolments. Then, if a course is not hitting its minimum enrolment threshold, drop it. There are courses going on out there with only 4 or 5 people taking them. Common sense has to enter the picture here.

  • Andy Dibling
    May 22, 2013 - 21:10

    It is unfortunate that it had to come to this.... facts are facts, universities are not responding fast enough to the changes in demographics. It is going to get worse before it gets better. I have been told by this same university that I can't get there form here. You see I work and would like to go to school part time. However what I am after is not offered in that format and P.L.A.R. will not count...AND I WORK IN EDUCATION. My eldest just graduated from X 2 weeks ago and there were 150 Education grads for a shrinking demographic, that is reprehensible to take their money, where will they work? In the world of distance Education, MOOC's and blended delivery 9-5 Sept. to May is becoming less relevant. Ironically I had just signed up for an engineering bridge program On-Line from a college in B.C. an hour before reading this article. Your loss U.P.E.I. I tried you first....I feel for the workers who keep things moving at U.P.E.I, and will suffer from bad management decisions. Unfortunately your leadership is clueless.

  • country boy
    May 22, 2013 - 19:43

    Hey Billy Bob, when was it ever government's responsibility to find you a job? In case you haven't heard globalization is the norm. Are you saying that Canada, an exporting Nation, should shut its borders and we would have our present standard of living in tact? Are you saying that PEI should close its borders and survive on its own? You forget the hard times many Islanders went through in the 50s and 60s. How many potatoes and fish can we eat? The island is also an exporter. Blame everything on government which means us, the tax payers keep digging deeper into our pockets.

    • Bill Kays
      May 23, 2013 - 11:10

      Easy now Country Boy, all you have to do to understand what I am saying is READ IT AGAIN. It is English, but I'll answer your questions. Who says globalization is the norm? It is globalist propaganda. It certainly isn't best way. I did not say Canada should close its borders, rather we should be exporting surpluses only, only what Canadians cannot use or will not use. Why shouldn't we on the east coast benefit from the west's cheap oil, right, they send it all to the USA or China, instead of east. Cheaper oil for us would mean a big economic boost for the region. No Islander should go to bed hungry while we are exporting potatoes. I do not FORGET the hard times in the fifties or sixties because after the war there was an economic boom. There wasn't really any hard times until the oil fiasco in the seventies that caused inflation / prices to rise daily. I am not blaming Islanders but I am blaming government, all federal and provincial governments of the last 50 years, for failing to protect us from predators, and for failing to plan ahead or for the rough times. If I was hungry I would eat fish and potatoes forever and BE GRATEFUL FOR IT. You are right about thing though, we are overtaxed to the hilt.

    • wellwell
      May 23, 2013 - 11:45

      Actually, our experiences help form the bases of many of our outlooks. Your experience may or may not be different than mine, and that is where open minded discussion comes in. To dismiss a persons experience, as a reasonable way of viewing a subject. is an oversimplification. being closed to other opinions is the problem.

  • lolatbill
    May 22, 2013 - 17:33

    You can blame the president all you want, but people in here saying he's in it for the money have no clue. The guy could be making much more elsewhere... go look at his credentials.

    • SAP
      May 22, 2013 - 21:00

      My experience has been, that if someone could do a whole lot better elsewhere, they would be elsewhere.

    • well
      May 23, 2013 - 09:52

      Well I'm sorry to say your experience doesn't mean too much. Just because you experience something doesn't mean that everyone or everything occurs that way. That's a very simple and dangerous way to think.

    • SAP
      May 23, 2013 - 10:35

      So, pick at my wording to deny a very human trait. People, who, have a world of opportunity, take that opportunity, it has been the case since the beginning of human life. Unless we suggest that this man is turning down greener pastures out of the goodness of his heart and to be charitable to UPEI?

    • wellwell
      May 23, 2013 - 13:52

      Actually, our experiences help form the bases of many of our outlooks. Your experience may or may not be different than mine, and that is where open minded discussion comes in. To dismiss a persons experience, as a reasonable way of viewing a subject. is an oversimplification. being closed to other opinions is the problem.

  • the whole picture
    May 22, 2013 - 15:32

    One of the most significant threats to the quality of post-secondary education, as well as to many other work sectors, is the casualization of the workforce--a situation that, unfortunately, UPEI keeps alive and well. Along with the lay-offs being announced today, many term and sessional contracts for teaching will not be re-newed at UPEI to save money which, in the end, will mean that fewer courses will be taught and that there will be larger class sizes for those that are. The quality of education suffers all around. Maintaining a contingent, casualized workforce provides management with lots of flexibility when it comes to decisions like these. No need to lay people off when all you have to do is not renew or reoffer a contract. The number of people impacted here across both academic and support staffs is unfortunately far more than 35.

    • The whole picture? Really?
      May 22, 2013 - 18:29

      You have opened up an issue worthy of debate; too bad the university doesn't offer such opportunities for public discourse. And therein lies the deeper problem. Just because universities have colonized certain spheres of knowledge doesn't mean their reign will last forever. What drives communication will drive change, and emerging ways to share information may well become a bigger threat to "universities" than budgets. Those who want to learn may not easily, or quickly, escape the commodification of information, but we're sure yanking at a few rusty chains. Nope, what's really scary is not the dismantling of universities, the scary part is that too many inside the institutions don't realize how, or why, they're being dismantled. That lack of understantanding will be seen as "threats" rather than opportunities. And that, my friends, ain't no way to manage change!

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    May 22, 2013 - 14:52

    THEY ARE BALANCING THEIR BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF UPEI's POOR, the unionized workers, just like government does to its poor. Higher education, that is a laugh and a half. To begin with this guy Abd-El-Aziz should find employment elsewhere. How much pain is he feeling over these cuts, how much of a decrease did the faculty have to endure, or the administration? It would appear that in fact, UPEI would rather cut from the bottom than from the top. When is enough going to be enough? If I had paid my tuition thinking these 35 staff members would be there if I needed them, I think I should get some of my tuition back. It is hard to attract students if THERE ARE NO (or fewer) SUPPORT STAFF AT UPEI, only professors.

  • anne smith
    May 22, 2013 - 14:29

    totally agree with the two previous comments!! START CUTTING OFF THE TOP.. this new president has only been at upei less than 2years,what is going on here?

  • country boy
    May 22, 2013 - 14:14

    How shameful of those professors that have attained retirement age refuse to retire but instead sue the university. Where does that money come from? All those who are of retirement age, RETIRE, and open the jobs to our young people. You can do the supply work while our young people who are raising families can find permanent work. this goes to other professions as well. Our students are graduating and can't find employment because so many that can won't leave. Baby boomers move on. There is life after work and you will find that you are busier than ever if you so desire.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      May 22, 2013 - 16:31

      Understand this, little boy, There is no such thing as retirement age. Do not blame the elderly, blame your government, whose job it was and is, to see that jobs can be created in a fair and even playing field. They stopped doing their job a long time ago. Now instead of catering to the people, government caters to big biz. It is your government that should shoulder all of the blame for the unemployment problem. Jobs would be created IF ALL THE WEALTH WASN'T BEING SUCKED OUT OF OUR COUNTRY BY THE BIG PREDATORS. All our government was tasked to do was to protect us from those predators, instead they joined with them in this financial raping of our country. There would be jobs for all if we were keeping our wealth in Canada and PEI but our glorious leaders have failed us.

  • Actions speak truth, what?
    May 22, 2013 - 13:26

    That the vulnerable are sacrificed to maintain the status of the more powerful is perfectly consistent with the ethos of the university. In this, evidence reveals the system and proves it's working exactly as it's designed to work. Oh, such revelations may be a tad embarrassing and there may a rush of strategic empathy. However, lest we naively believe that these "places of higher learning" have an emancipatory intent, let these situations reveal the truth.

  • SAP
    May 22, 2013 - 13:14

    Time for some real leadership all around. The top dogs should take cuts to make the numbers work, it should not be up to the government to keep throwing money at them so they can assure the "management" gets their share, whether they deserve it or not.

  • Fed Up
    May 22, 2013 - 13:13

    What do we expect when they have to bring in the TOP DOG all the way from B.C> and pay him huge wages......??? We must have someone on PEI who can do the job....and probably for a lot less money??? Same with all the "top" people....like government, UPEI is top heavy......lay some of them off - or cut their salaries. See how much flack you get then? Always the middle or low guy gets the axe...to protect the big shots. Government does this and you can see where that gets THEM....

  • Jonny Playsbass
    May 22, 2013 - 12:42

    I wonder if this would have anything to do in any way with the 3 who received over $500000 after digging their heels over mandatory retirement? Hopefully all the t's are crossed and I's dotted on this workforce reduction.

  • anne smith
    May 22, 2013 - 12:25

    i totally agree with Ruby Mad!! i have a comment & question.how does one justify sending an e-mail to the staff telling( them 35)that they no longer have a job when they (ce0's, president,etc.) are taking in such huge paychecks. my question is.. this president has been at upei for 2years now,how did the university get to be in such a financial mess all of a sudden? when wade mac. was their was the financial dept not aware of the trouble it might be facing in the near future!

  • Edward MacKinnon
    May 22, 2013 - 11:44

    Tired of seeing comments suggesting that the President should cut their salary before resorting to having to layoff staff. It's an immature comment usually made by people who wouldn't ever genuinely consider taking a cut in their own salary. You have an institution with finite resources and a legal obligation to deploy a balanced budget. Then you have CUPE who has been fighting for compensation increases, and rightfully so (that's one of the reasons why unions exist). But those compensation increases have repercussions, and in this case the balanced budget requirement ensures that CUPE members pay for those increases with layoffs instead of passing it along as a taxpayer tax. If more public institutions operated in this way we'd probably have more reasonable public sector compensation because union members would be forced to consider which of their co-workers will be out of a job to pay for their salary increase. There's a huge discrepancy between the salaries and benefits earned by workers in the public sector, and workers in the private sector who pay for their salaries. Good luck to those who are now back in the job market.

  • Huge Fan of UPEI
    May 22, 2013 - 11:30

    When are people (both inside and outside the university) going to start questioning the leadership of this president. Look at the facts: a balanced budget 18 months ago, EVERY single VP and Dean replaced in the last 18 months (many with gag order placed on them so that they are unable to discuss their views of the university's leadership), non-strategic hacking of the university's human resources (I don't question that cuts needed to be made, but a GOOD leader establishes strategic priorities and then invests in the institution for future growth) ......not to mention multiple sexual harassment complaints made against him. Interesting times at UPEI...I just hope the damage this man inflicts is reparable when he's finally gone.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    May 22, 2013 - 11:19

    THEY ARE BALANCING THEIR BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF UPEI's POOR, the unionized workers, just like government does to its poor. Higher education, that is a laugh and a half. To begin with this guy Abd-El-Aziz should find employment elsewhere. How much pain is he feeling over these cuts, how much of a decrease did the faculty have to endure, or the administration? It would appear that in fact, UPEI would rather cut from the bottom than from the top. When is enough going to be enough? If I had paid my tuition thinking these 35 staff members would be there if I needed them, I think I should get some of my tuition back. It is hard to attract students if THERE ARE NO (or fewer) SUPPORT STAFF AT UPEI, only professors.

  • Ruby Mad
    May 22, 2013 - 11:01

    This is so sad. I hate that "jobs" represents the lives (and their family's lives!) that have most likely just been turned upside down, and yet it seems so innocuous. Also, no Director, CEO, Chairperson, or President should ever announce job cuts without announcing a cut in their pay, ever.

  • don
    May 22, 2013 - 11:00

    Alaa Abd-El-Aziz. i see you still have your big pay coming in. and i bet the senior staff is not getting booted. but then you must protect the big guys right. to me you all do not deserve the big money you are getting as you have to remember it is the little guy that keeps you sitting in your fancy office.if you want to save money start at the top and work down.