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College laying off about 70 workers

MVT Olds College front building
Olds College is laying off about 70 staff. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS – Olds College is temporally laying off about 70 workers and moving an additional 30 full-time employees to part-time positions in response to fiancial pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic, says president Stuart Cullum.

“In response to the COVID-19 situation and the adaptations that the Olds College has had to make, we’ve needed to reduce our expenses for the short period while we get though the situation,” said Cullum.

The notices were provided last week and the changes will take affect in early May, he said.

The college has about 320 staff plus a number of part-time and contact workers. The 100 impacted are coming out of that total.

The decision to make the changes was directed by college management and not on the instruction of the provincial government, he said.

“We needed to do it to ensure that we didn’t end our fiscal year in a deficit position,” he said. “In order to basically balance our financial situation, we had to take these temporary measures.”

The positions are management support and administrative staff, he said. No instructors are being reassigned or laid off.

The college is currently operating with a skeleton staff.

“We are not closed but are in very limited operations,” he said. “We are running essential services and essential staff only. Our farm is still operational. Our brewery is still open and some very limited space. For the most part we are on a very limited basis.”

The workers will be called back when the pandemic is over, he said.

“We hope that will be as soon as possible,” he said.

The impacted workers will not need to reapply for their positions, he said.

Bobby-Joe Borodey is an Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) vice-president who works at the college as an admissions officer.

“The UCP government is kicking rural Albertans when they are already down,” Borodey said in a release. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the UCP is forcing massive layoffs when Albertans need security and support from their government.

“Olds is a small town and the college is a major source of jobs for our community. This is a heartless position for the government to take. Why are they punishing rural Albertans who do so much for the college and our community?”

The cuts come as school boards across the province have temporarily cut position, including educational assistants, hourly support staff, substitute teachers and bus drivers.

“It is wrong to kill jobs when we don’t have to,” says Borodey. “If the UCP fails to relax budget mandates for post-secondary then this will keep happening all over Alberta. This government is shamelessly adding to the 25,000 K-12 education worker layoffs. Because of politicians, the human and economic impact is going to be much worse than what would happen because of the pandemic alone.”