On Friday, President Turpin addressed the media, projecting the total number of job losses at the University of Alberta to be over 1000, as a result of severe budget cuts in the last two budgets, imposed by the Alberta government. Although the U of A’s Central Administration will “focus entirely on protecting the quality of teaching, learning and research environment”, it is inconceivable that the U of A can withstand this number of job losses, without harmful impacts on teaching, learning and research activities.
According to a presentation by the VP finance and Provost, at the U of A Board meeting on Friday, cuts to faculties will be 8.3% on average, allotted according to the new internal budget plan, and cuts to non-academic support units will be 12.8%. A variety of approaches will be taken including: a hiring freeze, reduction of administrative staff, vacate lease space, re-examine supplier contracts, reduce cleaning to lower (minimum required) standards, defer energy management program investments, close or consolidate some libraries, academic efficiencies from suspending new enrolment in, and closing, low enrolment programs, major administrative process restructuring, and major academic restructuring (amalgamating some faculties or other academic reorganizations). One can probably expect this is not an exhaustive list.
We do not have a clear understanding at this time where the job losses will occur, and the relative numbers from different employment categories, e.g. non-academic staff (NASA members), AASUA, or other employees. This is complicated by the decentralized organization of the University. Each Faculty will be looking at its financial situation and decide where it will make cuts. Such information may arrive in piecemeal fashion with commensurate job losses internal to individual Faculties. Irrespective of where job losses occur, in Central Administration or within Faculties, they will impact individual lives, and can negatively impact the University.
Not all of the enumerated job losses are layoffs, a significant portion are retirements and attrition (defined as those who choose to leave their jobs). We heard that vacancies from these two categories will not be replaced. There will likely be substantial increased workloads of those who remain. There are limits to what our members can be expected to pick up in this circumstance. AASUA is the bargaining agent and therefore must be informed by Central Administration regarding any proposed layoffs, and management must abide by the terms of the Collective Agreement regarding layoffs of any academic staff.
In response to the government budget cuts to the U of A, the student union (SU), graduate student association (GSA), NASA, and AASUA are drafting a joint letter directed to the public and for circulation to push back at these severely harmful budget cuts. Furthermore, the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA), of which AASUA is a member, has issued a press release condemning the cuts by the Alberta government. CAFA is also developing an extensive advertising campaign with the intention of directing it to the public, decrying the government cuts and promoting investment in Alberta’s post-secondary education, and therefore its future. Presidents of CAFA associations have a conference call tomorrow morning on this initiative. I will provide updates on theses and additional activities as we promote or develop them.