College plans to axe more than 30 jobs

NORTHWEST Community College now says it needs to cut the equivalent of nearly 32 full-time jobs to balance budget.

  • Feb. 15, 2012 11:00 a.m.

NORTHWEST Community College now says it needs to cut the equivalent of nearly 32 full-time jobs to balance a budget that has been steadily sliding into the red for more than two years.

But the actual number of people to be laid off could be even more as not every college employee is a full-time worker.

At last count, the college had 277 full-time equivalent positions on its payroll made up of  more than 600 people.

A cut of 32 full-time equivalent positions would work out to more than 10 per cent of its full-time equivalent work force.

College officials are now working on deciding who will actually receive a layoff notice and want those notices out by the end of the month.

College human resources and payroll director Suzanne LeBlanc said the figure of 32 full-time equivalent positions is what’s needed to balance a budget that would otherwise have a reoccurring deficit problem.

LeBlanc expected that a round of talks starting this week between the college and its labour unions would lead to measures to reduce the job loss figure and still meet the college’s obligation to balance its budget.

“We, as employees of the college are stewards of the college and our priority one is to ensure that we deliver quality programming in a sustainable way,” LeBlanc said in a prepared statement.

Measures to ease layoffs could include job sharing and early retirements, LeBlanc added.

How the impacts on programs and employees plays out will be months in the making, however, because of steps laid out in union contracts.

The majority of the college’s unionized employees belong to the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the goal is to provide specific layoff notices by Feb. 28.

“In effect, we then give five months notice [of a job loss] and that’s to Aug. 1, 2012,” said LeBlanc.

“Then there’s the bumping process,” LeBlanc added in referring to the ability of one union member taking the job of another union member based on seniority.

While LeBlanc is anticipating a constructive two weeks of talks with the BCGEU, that’s not the case with the much smaller union, the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of BC (which is called the Academic Workers’ Union at the college), which represents mostly university credit instructors.

“They’ve opted not to participate [in the talks],” said LeBlanc.

The instructors hope to be before the Labour Relations Board this week, asking for an order preventing the college from deciding on final layoff notices until more financial information is released.

LeBlanc said the college is worried about the “extreme messaging” concerning the institution’s deficit.

“People have a right to say what they wish but when the information affects the perceptions of students, their parents, and the entire community and is not reflective of what is being done, this concerns us,” she said.

LeBlanc said it was difficult to provide an average salary and benefit amount for employees and final financial impacts because of the different contracts covering employees

who perform different roles.

For the record, college president Denise Henning, who this month marks her first year at the helm of the college, earns a salary of $157,000 a year.

That’s approximately $6,000 more than the listed 2009/10 salary of predecessor Stephanie Forsyth.

Financial information for the college’s 2010-2011 fiscal year indicate nearly 80 people earn more than $75,000 a year (by law the college has to publish the names of those who earn more than $75,000 a year and the exact amount they earn).

This list  includes Forsyth who left in the early fall of 2010, approximately halfway through the college’s financial year. It does not include Henning who began in March 2011 at the close of the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Within that group of nearly 80 people, seven earned more than $90,000 a year and six earned more than $100,000 a year.

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