U of R laying off 'small number' of staff due to operating budget cuts

·3 min read
Nearly all faculties and administrative units at the University of Regina have had to cut their operating budgets by five per cent, and forecasts predict the university will sustain a $2.5-million shortfall this year, according the university's budget plan. (Alexander Quon/CBC  - image credit)
Nearly all faculties and administrative units at the University of Regina have had to cut their operating budgets by five per cent, and forecasts predict the university will sustain a $2.5-million shortfall this year, according the university's budget plan. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

The University of Regina will be laying off some staff as it navigates operating on a reduced budget.

The university is undergoing some "workforce adjustments," which include a "small number" of layoffs and not extending some short-term contracts, according to a U of R spokesperson.

The university tried to dampen the impact of the layoffs on faculty and staff through early retirement incentives and eliminating some already vacant positions, the spokesperson said in an email. Some employees in encumbered positions are still being affected, however, so the institution is focusing on helping those people.

"The University of Regina didn't ask for any additional funding in this year's budget," Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant told reporters Monday while in Saskatoon.

"We have confidence in the university to carry on and do the work that they need to do, as we continue to have conversations around what a new funding agreement is going to look like with our post-secondary institutions."

The provincial government earmarked about $431.8 million for universities and federated and affiliated colleges in its 2023-24 budget, a decrease of about $14.1 million from the $445.9 million allotted to those institutions last fiscal year.

The budget doesn't specify how much the U of R would receive. A budget letter from the Ministry of Advanced Education to Marlene Smadu, chair of the U of R's board of governors, states the ministry would be spending about $120.6 million total — about $2.7 million less than the previous year.

About $110.7 million of that money is operating funding, the letter states, which signals a $4.8-million cut in operation spending on the U of R.

The base operating grant stayed the same, according to the letter. The university would receive more money for the nursing seat expansion this year than it had last year, as well as money for the health human resources action plan — which did not exist last year.

It won't receive a multi-year funding allocation, however, which accounted for nearly $5.5 million last year.

Opposition questions spending

Jennifer Bowes, the Opposition NDP advanced education critic, raised the issue during Monday's question period at the Legislature, asking the Saskatchewan Party why it didn't spend more on advanced education given the province's surplus.

"This government is in fact downloading cuts onto the U of R, through [its] underfunding," Bowes said.

The U of R board of governors recently approved this year's operating budget, which will include a four per cent tuition hike starting this fall, according to a news release issued on April 28.

The base operating budgets of all faculties and administrative units — except for UR International and the Indigenous office — were cut by five per cent, and forecasts predict an overall shortfall of about $2.5 million, according to the university's comprehensive budget plan.

Cost-saving measures, in addition to layoffs, have implemented, but no academic programs are being eliminated, the news release says.

The U of R spokesperson did not provide information about which types of faculty and staff positions would be affected by the layoffs.

Britt Hall, president of the University of Regina's Faculty Association, which represent more than 1,500 members, predicted the layoffs when the provincial budget was released in March.

At the time, she said sessional staff will be cut, which would increase the workload on remaining professors.