ONE OF the union groups at Northwest Community College whose members are being laid off to help balance its budget isn’t conceding any ground.
Instead the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of BC is asking the provincial Labour Relations Board to stop the layoffs. It says every effort must be made to find other ways to save money, says Cindy Oliver, who is federation president.
“We need to find viable alternatives,” said Oliver, whose group includes the Canadian Union of Public Employees which represents instructors at the college. Some have received complete layoff notices while others have been told their work has been cut in half.
“We need to have a full discussion to see if there are other ways of mitigating this situation,” Oliver added.
The college and the instructors have been sending information back and forth via the Labour Relations Board in hopes of resolving issues informally in advance of the board deciding to have a formal hearing.
In the meantime, Oliver did acknowledge that instructors have not been meeting directly with college officials to discuss layoffs or alternatives to layoff as part of a college effort to meet with employees.
“Some of those times were set up when instructors were in their classrooms with students. It wasn’t convenient,” said Oliver. She said the college needs to do its utmost to preserve its programs in the region.
“You just can’t expect people to be travelling down to the Lower Mainland when they need to take a course,” she said. Oliver said it’s also time for the advanced education ministry, which provides the college with most of its money, to take more of a leadership role.
“They really need to address this issue of a deficit,” she said. Other instructors and employees who are members of another union at the college, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), have also been given layoff notices.
But those receiving notices may not end up losing their jobs because they now have the opportunity to ‘bump’ union members who have less seniority. College officials have said they need to cut the equivalent of approximately 32 full-time positions to balance the institution’s budget. The college employs 600 people in the equivalent of just over 276 full-time positions.
But college officials have yet to confirm the number of layoff notices it has issued, but has said both union and management positions will be affected. And the college has yet to indicate whether it will close down any of its smaller campuses such as Houston or Kitimat.
“Information related to cutbacks will be released once impacted employees and impacted areas have been advised,” a college release indicated.
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Although the exact extent of layoffs at the college isn’t yet known, one senior manager is already gone.
Kristine Kofoed was hired Aug. 1, 2010 as the college’s communications director and as the person in charge of college advancement.
Her last day at work was Friday, Feb. 10 and her departure was announced Monday, Feb. 13.
“On behalf of the college and the communications department at NWCC, I would like to thank Kristine for her service to our organization and wish her well in all her future endeavours,” said Dave O’Leary, the college’s vice president in charge of institutional advancement.
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Meanwhile, the college’s governing board has joined other post-secondary institutions in raising tuition fees by the maximum allowed, two per cent. For a typical three credit university course in which there is no lab, the fee will now be $267.93, up from $273.12 which is an increase of $5.19. For a student taking five courses a semester, the increase amounts to $25.95. Lab fees are also rising for students in the sciences.
“The combination of increased barriers and upcoming cuts to NWCC courses and programs really fly in the face of both Premier Christy Clark’s jobs plan and the skilled workforce shortage that our region is facing,” said Mikael Jensen, an organizer with the students’ union at the college.