Union wants college layoff plan stopped

THE PROVINCIAL Labour Relations Board is being asked to stop the plans by Northwest Community College to cut a portion of its workforce.

THE PROVINCIAL Labour Relations Board is being asked to stop the plans by Northwest Community College to cut a portion of its workforce.

The request for a cease and desist order was filed last week by the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of BC, which mostly represents instructors at the college who teach academic and university transfer courses.

Each of the union’s full-time members, save those who are retiring, has been named as being subject to a layoff notice.

Faced with a deficit approaching $2 million, the college has said it will lay off workers of all kinds, but has yet to release full details affecting the 600 full and part-time employees who work on its nine campuses.

Federation president Cindy Oliver said the union’s not convinced the college has explored every other cost cutting avenue before deciding to trim its payroll.

“This is unbelievable for a college to do this,” said Oliver of issuing a blanket layoff notice. “This has never happened before.”

She said college administrators should instead be meeting with college employees.

“We need to talk about options,” said Oliver.  “We have some very creative and talented people who could make contributions.”

“The only solution so far has been pretty drastic. [The college] has gone from 0 – 100 [miles an hour] in a flash.”

Oliver also said it’s time for the college to open its books for a more transparent examination of its financial picture.

Although Oliver and others have been critical of the approach taken by college president Denise Henning, Henning has visited each campus to speak with students and the college has set up a website soliciting ways of saving money.

Still, Oliver has warned Henning in a Jan. 27, 2012 letter that continuing with layoff plans will “involve our local, our federation and your administration in a costly legal process before the Labour Relations Board as well as a substantial grievance and arbitration process.”

“For an administration that seems so concerned about funding constraints, your actions will only exacerbate that problem,” Oliver continued.

The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents the majority of the college’s unionized workers, is so far taking a different approach.

While the union also received a notice that layoffs are about to happen, affected union members have yet to be notified.

President Darryl Walker said union officials are meeting with college officials to determine what exactly will happen and that items such as severance pay and voluntary departures are contained in the BCGEU’s collective agreements with the college.

“We’re determining what they need to do and why they need to do it,” said Walker of the college’s financial situation.