QUFA UPDATE – News that Matters

Principal’s comments will deepen mistrust at Queen’s


Queen’s University Principal Tom Williams’ negative comments at his most recent town hall meeting on the Queen’s budget situation were unfortunate and counter-productive. His prediction that layoffs and deteriorating work conditions are unavoidable unless Queen’s employees agree, among other things, to take five days of unpaid leave should be seen for what it is: a divisive scare tactic.

If Williams is frustrated with the slow progress being made in addressing the university’s budget deficit, he should look first to his own leadership team before lashing out at those who are least responsible for the university’s current financial difficulties.
Williams’ administration has failed to provide convincing evidence that salary cuts are the only way to reduce costs and return the university to a sound financial footing. In fact, in previous meetings and on his website, the principal has stated that employee salaries are comparable to those at other Ontario universities.

Yet despite the current recession, no other university has implemented unpaid leave days or salary rollbacks or reopened collective agreements. The terms of Queen’s employees’ collective agreements are in line with agreements recently negotiated at other universities and public sector organizations.  Williams’ implied accusation that Queen’s employee groups are being selfish, greedy and unresponsive will only further deepen the level of anxiety and mistrust on campus, and ensure that his successor, Dr. Daniel Woolf, will have to work that much harder to rebuild trust and respect among all members of the Queen’s community. – Michael White Kingston

UWO to cut 114 positions: Some cuts will be by attrition but 55 people will have to be laid off.
By Joe Matyas, SunMedia

More job cuts are coming to the University of Western Ontario. The university plans to eliminate 55 jobs by the end of May, its vice-president of operations said yesterday after Western’s board of governors approved operating and capital budgets for 2009-2010.  “We know there will need to be some layoffs,” Gitta Kulczycki said after the board approved a $540 million operating budget and a $75 million budget for capital expenditures.

The budget requires the elimination of 114 staff positions, said Kulczycki. Thirty-one employees have agreed to take exit packages and 28 vacancies won’t be filled, she said. Plans call for a further reduction of 25 management jobs and 30 jobs in Western’s support staff group, she said, adding the university also is willing to accept voluntary faculty departures.  More jobs could have been lost were it not for a couple of unexpected sources of revenue Western received during budget deliberations this spring. The university received a $5 million, one-time windfall from the federal government and a $4.7 million settlement from a 23-year-old lawsuit. The settlement couldn’t have come at a better time for an institution coping with a gap of $13.3 million between expected expenditures and revenues.
The revenue shortage, largely a result of a dramatic drop in investment income, will be covered by a drawdown from a $28.2 million operating reserve.

University president Paul Davenport expressed concern to the board about drawdowns that will cut the operating reserve to about $2.5 million in two years. But he said he felt the university was managing its money responsibly through difficult times.

In February, the university’s administration asked departments to cut budgets by 5.5%. The board lowered that to a 4.5% reduction yesterday because of the windfall sources of revenue. The board also endorsed an average tuition fee increase of 4.5% for the 2009-2010 school year. About 50% of the university’s revenue comes from government grants and 38.5% from tuition fees. About 60% of its operating budget goes to its teaching faculties and 14% to student support. After “an open and transparent budget process” that included two town hall meetings on campus and consultations with faculties, the board has produced a budget that “everyone clearly understands” in the context of current economic difficulties, said board chairperson Michele Nobel.

The good old days of rising revenues are gone, Fred Longstaffe, provost and academic vice-president, said after the board meeting. “It’s fiscally prudent to plan for softer circumstances in the future,” he said. The university calculates it will lose $46.25 million in expected investment income during the next three years because of the market downturn.

Faculty group to fight university shutdown
By CARL CLUTCHEY\From The Chronicle Journal
Saturday, April 25, 2009

Any financial savings Lakehead University realizes by an “unanticipated” four-day shutdown just before this Christmas will be eaten up in a legal battle at the province‘s labour relations board, warns the association that represents LU‘s 300 instructors. “I don‘t think they‘ll save that much, because if it goes to a (board) hearing you will have hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by both parties,” Lakehead University Faculty Association chief negotiator Gerald Phillips said Friday. LUFA is vowing to fight the pre-Christmas shutdown – which will result in a loss of pay for most LU employees – because it says the move violates the collective agreement it has with the university.

A LU memo to its employees this week says the shutdown is to “generate bottom-line savings.” The memo added: “It is regrettable that our financial situation requires the need to take this action.” LU president Fred Gilbert was not available for comment Friday. An LU spokeswoman said there would be no comment beyond the memo. Phillips, who has taught at LU for 40 years, said he can‘t recall a similar shutdown and called it a “major embarrassment.” “We haven‘t been shown the books to show that there‘s a problem,” said Phillips, a professor of business and labour relations.

LUFA claims LU‘s long-term debt of $103 million is too high and questions recent decisions by university management. Among other things, says LUFA, the university should not have proceeded with buying Thunder Bay‘s Port Arthur Collegiate for a future law school and made financial infrastructure commitments to its Orillia campus “before adequate funding was secured.”

In an article this spring in Toronto‘s Financial Post, LU economics professor Livio Di Matteo said average debt-loads at Ontario universities is $147 million. “In 2000, the University of Toronto‘s long-term debt was $63.7-million and has grown by 773 per cent since then to reach its $556-million total,” Di Matteo wrote. Di Matteo added: “Little Lakehead University has seen its long-term debt rise from $14.6-million to $103.4-million over the same time period – an increase of 608 per cent. In part, said Di Matteo, the financial woes currently experienced by universities can be attributed to the easy credit of the last decade that also left consumers with big debt loads.

Provided by: Gillian Barlow

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