News | Senate discusses plan to reduce University staff

Concerns raised about teaching and research

The McGill Senate met last Thursday for the first time this year to discuss the University’s new human resources plan to cut back on personnel expenses.

The Workforce Planning Initiative was introduced on May 1 by the McGill administration in response to Bill 100, which mandates that Quebec universities decrease administrative expenditures.

In a memo to the University community, Vice-Principal (Admin-istration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa explained that the initiative introduced a “2 for 1” attrition program under which two voluntary departures from administrative staff members will be replaced by only one person.

“When an employee leaves the University voluntarily, the unit for which that individual worked will retain only 50 per cent of the salary attached to the position,” wrote Di Grappa in May.

During the meeting, students and professors raised concerns about the effects of the workforce plan on student services and expertise in research and teaching.

Graham Bell, Faculty Senator and Biology professor, explained that the attrition initiative could obstruct research as it would become more complicated to hire people with certain research expertise.

Bell called for consultation at the grassroots level to make sure the changes are appropriate.

Di Grappa also responded to allegations that in past years the growth in administration positions was mainly at the upper level, stating that it had actually been concentrated in Student Services.

Additionally, Di Grappa stated that another 15 per cent of administrative growth was in central services units, as opposed to the 6 per cent growth in faculties.

When the Workforce Planning Initiative was first introduced, the University said that Student Services would not be affected by attrition.

According to PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney, “For positions that are funded through the university-wide budget, the money that is saved through the 2 for 1 attrition goes into saving in the budget, but in [Student Services]…the savings that will be realized will be used for special projects designed to streamline and increase efficiency.”

Arts Senator and Anthropology professor John Galaty told The Daily that the administration said the initiative would affect all units “from the Provost office right through the university.”

“If we take [the administration] at their word, it is not in particular going to affect just the lower units. Our fear is that, in fact, the way that they’re talking about re-organizing will take people from the departments and put them at the faculty level… that it will take expertise from places where it’s needed in the departments…where their level of expertise is most needed and [taking them] to another level,” said Galaty.

Galaty also said that Di Grappa had been in consultation with the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) and other employee groups like the non-academic workers union, MUNACA.

“The processes at work have been going on for some time at a lower level, so we have seen things happen, we have made our views known. Ultimately, this is a centrally administered program that is being run out of the [Vice-Principal (Finance and Administrations)] office,” said Galaty.