LETHBRIDGE—Lethbridge College is immediately cutting five jobs, with more to come, according to an announcement from the President.
On June 17, Lethbridge College President Paula Burns sent an email to all staff announcing that due to “on-going cuts to [the College’s] operating budget mandated by the Government of Alberta,” the College will “eliminate” five positions. The positions being axed are in Facilities Management and the Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation.
“Those five jobs are not just a statistic,” says Karen Weiers, a Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents workers at Lethbridge College. “Every one of those workers is a human being with families, friends, and commitments to their community. Their lives are being upended now because of the UCP’s savage cuts.”
The eliminated jobs are mostly caretaking positions, which are essential to keeping the College facilities functional and pleasant for students and staff. As post-secondary institutions across Alberta prepare for an eventual return to in-person learning, likely in the Fall semester, these jobs are an integral part of returning to normal.
“Groundskeepers and caretakers do thankless work, but it’s some of the most important work at any institution,” Weiers says. “Without these essential workers, none of the so-called ‘core functions’ of institutions can work. Teachers can’t teach if their buildings aren’t maintained.”
Burns’ email also makes clear that the College “knows further cuts are coming in the 2022 provincial budget.” Since the UCP took power in 2019, every year has seen a substantial decrease in funding for post-secondary education.
“The economic crisis we’re going through in Alberta has a way out—and post-secondary institutions are a key part of it,” Weiers says. “They will train the next generation of skilled workers that can help diversify our economy and get Alberta going again.”
Staff morale at colleges and universities across Alberta is plummeting. Some part-time employees are working full-time hours, and lower-paid casual staff are being hired to fill in the gaps. Student-to-faculty ratios at many institutions are falling, and the UCP government plans to continue its budget cuts into the future. The UCP’s explicit goal is to turn post-secondary institutions towards reliance on private funding for research, and corporatize the university.
“The UCP’s vision for post-secondary education in Alberta is really frightening,” Weiers says. “With less public funding, schools will provide worse services for higher prices—and poorer Albertans will be increasingly locked out. Any Albertan who wants to attend college or university should be able to do so without going into massive debt.”
“There is an easy solution to this crisis—fund our post-secondaries. The problem is that it runs counter to the UCP’s ideology of cuts, cuts, and more cuts,” Weiers says. “The five workers who are now out of a job at Lethbridge College are more victims of the UCP.”
Vice-President Karen Weiers is available for comment. Contact Jon Milton, AUPE Communications Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org