UWindsor laying off 10 staff to help address $5.6M budget shortfall

The University of Windsor will layoff 10 people in a bid to balance its budget, a spokesperson for the school announced Tuesday.

In a statement, the university said the jobs will be cut and the University Players, a production arm within the school for the dramatic arts, will be closed.

The Entrepreneurship, Practice, and Innovation (EPI) Centre will be "reimagined to integrate and enhance our innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem."

It's all part of an effort to balance the base budget and save $5.6 million.

"With escalating operating costs and several years of budget realignments, the university will continue to identify revenue opportunities, along with operational efficiencies and staffing adjustments to ensure that the university continues to fulfil its academic mission and safeguards the institution's financial sustainability," a statement from the university read.

The school said it's a result of budget pressures stemming from "ongoing domestic tuition freezes, provincial policy and funding impacts, competitive forces, and fluctuating enrolment."

A student filed a sexual assault complaint against another University of Windsor student on January 13, 2020
A University of Windsor logo shown on the side of the building on the school's campus. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The union representing workers at the University of Windsor, including members of both the University Players and EPI Centre, said the closures represent "a step backward."

"At a time when the university's strategic plan emphasizes its role as an engine of economic diversification, urban vitality, and civic engagement in the Windsor-Essex region, these cuts appear short-sighted and self-defeating," said CUPE 1393 president Paul Fraser.

Fraser told CBC News that six Local 1393 members from the University Players will lose their jobs. Another two of their members who work at the EPI Centre are not included in the layoffs, but the reporting structure for their jobs will change because the EPI Centre is closing.

Fraser said he is not aware of where the balance of the 10 total announced layoffs come from.

But, he accused the university of not following the collective agreement because it did not provide the union with two weeks' notice to explore options to save jobs.

In a statement, the university declined to comment on the layoff process and issues regarding the collective agreement.

But a spokesperson did confirm the EPI Centre will cease operations in current form but "its initiatives will be reimagined to integrate and enhance the University of Windsor's innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

"We understand that this is a difficult day for our community, and this decision was not made lightly. The realignment is essential to ensure the financial sustainability of the university while continuing to fulfill our academic mission amid ongoing fiscal challenges," the statement read.

The University Players have already been working on preparing for the upcoming season, with money spent and tickets sold, according to Fraser.

"They've already prepared for the next season and spent money," he said. "Where's the fiscal responsibility in any of this? ... . It was an institution for many people."

The university's EPI Centre is a valuable support for new businesses, he added.

"Bringing the expertise of our faculty and students to bear has been of great benefit to our local economic ecosystem and it will be a shame if we cut these ties at such a crucial time in our regional development."