Job cuts come as part of balancing UNBC budget

The University of Northern British Columbia Board of Governors have approved an $93.6-mllion operating budget for 2020-21 that trimmed $3.4 million in expenses at the cost of 21 jobs and increased tuition fees to make ends meet.

The job cuts account for $1.4 million of the reduction. Twelve of the positions were vacant leaving nine people who will lose their jobs directly. Eleven are unionized workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, eight are exempt or senior administration positions, and two faculty.

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Students will see a two-per-cent increase in tuition, pushing the average for a full-time undergraduate student up by $109 to $5,533.

By law, universities must passed balanced budgets.

UNBC relies on the provincial government for about 60 per cent of its revenue while tuition and fees cover another 23 per cent. Wages and benefits account for about 70 per cent of the university's total operating expenditures.

"We had to make some very tough and unfortunate decisions," UNBC interim president Dr. Geoff Payne said.

He pointed to inflation and other cost drivers and trouble meeting targets for enrollment as the main reasons for the steps.

He said some one-time funding helped with the shortfall, "but we also needed to make some permanent reductions in order to put the university back on the path of economic sustainability."

He said the job cuts were an "even mix" of unionized and faculty.

According to the local's website, eight are members Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3799, which represents support workers at the university.

UNBC Faculty Association president Dr. Stephen Rader said two faculty who are retiring will not be replaced.

Going forward, Payne is taking a wait-and-see attitude as to how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect UNBC.

"We'll have to see where the financial outlook will come down," he said. "Obviously, we are going to have some financial impacts but we're also not spending in certain areas because with COVID, we're not travelling as much and those types of things."

Payne said some "exciting things" are coming in terms of restructuring and course offerings.

"And really, UNBC is a great school with great people and we make significant impacts so we'll continue on that path of being one of Canada's best small research-intensive universities," he said.

The board approved the budget at its June 19 meeting.

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