IT’S NOT surprising that Northwest Community College and its unionized workers aren’t agreeing on much when it comes to cutting jobs to reduce the college deficit but there’s one surprising area in which there’s common ground.
No one is talking pay cuts to keep from cutting jobs or services, and salaries make up just under 90 per cent of operating expenses yearly.
College president Denise Henning said the college’s contracts with its unionized workforce are negotiated province-wide and can’t be changed to reflect local conditions.
“I would never ask that of people,” said Henning of the idea of pay cuts. “What I have asked is to put forward ideas.”
She also dismissed the idea of having employees take furloughs or other forms of unpaid leaves saying that the reality is there are too many people working at the college for the income it receives.
“We can’t continue doing business the way we’ve been doing,” Henning continued.
Cindy Oliver, the president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, which primarily represents the college’s university credit instructors, also dismissed the idea of pay cuts.
She said the college has to abide by contracts negotiated with instructors.
“To be honest with you, there’s never been the case where taking a pay cut has turned out to be positive,” said Oliver.
“Taking a pay cut doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be layoffs anyway,” she said.
The president of the BC Government and Service Employee’s Union, which represents the majority of the unionized workers at the college, also said a pay cut was not being contemplated.
“A lot of our members are coming off zero percentage increases. So with inflation of two to two and half per cent a year, they’ve done their part,” said Darryl Walker.
He suggested the government could find the money for the college by increasing income taxes for the well-off wage earner and for corporations.
“Maybe the tax cuts of the past decade have been too deep.
We’re supposed to have the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada and perhaps in North America,” Walker said.
“We need a review of the tax system. Those that can afford to pay a little bit more should pay a little bit more,” said Walker.
A college website set up to provide information on its budget deficit and to solicit ideas from employees, students and others to cut spending features several comments indicating that pay cuts of one type or another should be explored.
Several suggestions call for closing down portions of the college during the summer with one saying that wages would then be based on 10 months a year and not a full 12 months.
One other suggestion advocates having everyone taking a 10 to 15 per cent pay cut for a year.