'Significant' cuts coming to U of A amidst COVID-19 pandemic
University of Alberta. (Sean McClune/CTV News Edmonton)
EDMONTON -- The president of the University of Alberta says they are being forced to eliminate over a thousand jobs as a result of the most recent provincial budget.
In a blog post, David Turpin said the cuts will go ahead, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Early last week, the provincial government passed its 2020 budget, confirming changes and reductions to post-secondary funding, including a deep cut to the U of A. We must follow government legislation and table a balanced budget for 2020–21 by March 31," he wrote.
In order to table a balanced budget, Turpin said they would have to look at raising tuition, increasing non-instructional and residence fees, deferring capital projects, and closing buildings.
In addition, the school has cut 400 positions this year through retirement, attrition, layoffs and position closures, and anticipates the reduction of another 635 positions for the 2020-2021 school year. Turpin called the job losses significant.
Post-secondary institutions across the province had been trying to negotiate a deal with the province to have severance costs deficit financed, a move Turpin said would reduce job losses significantly, but he said the request had been denied.
Turpin also said it is especially difficult for administrators to come up with a balanced budget given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To balance our budget as required, we must make difficult decisions and continue to implement plans, even as we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis — a crisis that has no predictable end point," he wrote.
The Non-Academic Staff Association, the Graduate Students Association, the Postdoctoral Fellows Association and the Students Union also sent a joint open letter to the province condemning the layoffs, and demanding the university continue pay and benefits for staff for the duration of the pandemic.
"As the U of A responds to the COVID-19 crisis, everyone working at the university has pulled together in amazing ways to keep things running. The university now needs to show its support for everyone working on campus: student workers, support staff, faculty and academic staff, academically employed graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows," the letter said. "These groups are all vital in supporting the university’s mandate. To proceed with layoffs in the current situation is shameful."
CTV News Edmonton has reached out to the provincial government for comment.