“Voluntary Departure Program” Initiated to Address Budget Compressions

Concordia President Alan Shepard. Photo Brandon Johnston

In response to university budget compressions initiated by the Quebec government for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, Concordia University is looking to trim $15.7 million in spending by introducing a voluntary departure program for administrative and support staff.

The aim of the program is to reduce operation costs by cutting the amount of staff members needed to run the university.

The program allows Concordia staff members who have worked at the university for more than 10 years to leave on a voluntary basis, receiving a monetary package for doing so.

Those who have been staff members for 15 years or more will receive an additional premium for leaving.

“It’s entirely voluntary; no one is being laid off. The effect of that will be, if it works how we think it will, to reduce our operating costs by $12 million a year on a permanent basis,” Concordia President Alan Shepard said.

“We’ve tried to protect the student experience, protect the research climate in universities—so we’re not making cuts to research budgets, we’re not making cuts to student bursary programs or scholarship programs,” he said.

The program is not open to faculty members, such as professors and librarians, but is aimed at administrative, support and professional staff.

Caps were put on the number of severance packages given out to prevent the school from becoming understaffed.

“I don’t think you can make 180 reductions in positions and pretend it’s just like it was yesterday, because that’s just not true,” Shepard said.

“At the same time, what we’re going to do is, we’ve planned for 180 departures and we know that some number of those—maybe 20, 25, 30—will be in positions of something that is critical. You can’t do without that, so we’ll have to re-hire in those roles.”

The government has also asked that the university does not run a deficit this year.

The university budget compressions were imposed by Quebec’s Liberal government as part of wider austerity measures undertaken in an effort to tackle the province’s deficit.

Last year, Concordia had to cut $13.2 million from its budget.

“They are asking us to anticipate additional cuts next year, but I have no idea what those are, it’s too premature to say,” Shepard said.