After union sought hearing, job cuts are still a go

Northwest Community College is still going to lay off instructors to cut its budget but how it does so has now changed.

  • Mar. 2, 2012 5:00 a.m.

NORTHWEST COMMUNITY College is still going to lay off instructors to cut a threatened deficit approaching $2 million but how it does so has now changed.

What had been a mass notice of potential layoffs issued in January has now been withdrawn, says a union official following two days of informal hearings conducted by the provincial Labour Relations Board.

Instead, individual instructors and other affected employees – ones who have already been told they will either lose their jobs altogether or face reduced hours – will get those notices in a different fashion.

At the same time, college officials will be meeting with instructors and other affected workers belonging to the Canadian Union of Public Employees to review options such as early retirement packages and severance packages that could cushion or otherwise alter final layoffs.

Cindy Oliver, the president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, an umbrella group made up of unions such as CUPE which represent  post secondary instructors in B.C., said she was pleased with the results of the two-day session held by labour relations board vice chair Ken Saunders here March 27-28.

“It was worth filing,” Oliver said of a request made by the instructors to the labour relations board for a cease and desist order to stop the layoffs. “It is a very large victory for the faculty.”

Instructors who had already received layoff notices teach post secondary academic courses.

The college has been facing declining academic enrolment in its university credit courses for several years now.

Oliver said the college also needs to spell out how its programs will be changed or affected because of the layoffs.

If Oliver was satisfied with the results of the two-day session, so was the college.

“It is an agreement that defines how CUPE and NWCC will move forward with the processing of any cuts that may impact CUPE employees,” said college president Denise Henning in a release.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this process and will continue to move forward with CUPE to ensure that the consultative process set out in the CUPE collective agreement is followed.”

Last week’s agreement does away with the need for a formal labour relations board hearing.

CUPE members had not been taking part in talks with the college about how to reduce its deficit.

The union has also asked the province to audit the college’s finances.

Last week’s session did not involve college employees who are members of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union. Individual employees who will lose their jobs have already been told and the college and the union are working through provisions of their collective agreement.

The college earlier this year said it had to cut the equivalent of 32 full time positions to balance its budget which last year ran a deficit of $1.6 million on a budget of approximately $30 million.