Cost-cutting helps avert staff layoffs



With the elimination of Yale’s projected operating deficit, Yale employees will not face a repeat of last year’s layoffs, Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper said Thursday, but he said he would not rule out the possibility of future staff reductions.

Last year, a 5 percent across the board reduction in staff expenses left more than 70 University workers jobless, Pepper said. But University efficiency reforms and ongoing initiatives will eliminate the deficit for the 2005-2006 fiscal year without substantial firings, Provost Andrew Hamilton said in an e-mail sent to Yale employees.

Pepper said Yale officials will continue to reduce the deficit — which stood at $14.5 million this year and $30 million in the previous year — with a series of moves and reassignments designed primarily to increase the efficiency of the procurement department. The procurement department spends an average of $750 million per year on campus resources and still has plenty of room for improvement in efficiency without a net loss of employees, Pepper said.

“Of the money we spend on procurement, half a billion are things we can net savings in by being smarter,” he said. “Maybe a person or two will get moved around. We’ll aim to do that first and foremost through attrition, or failing that, we’ll move a person into another position that needs to be done.”

Pepper highlighted employee air travel as an exemplar of increased efficiency. Since the fall, flight reservations have been managed by a division of IBM rather than a series of smaller agencies. Pepper also said he expects the Yale Publishing Services Center, a “reincarnation” of RIS, to cut 10 percent from the University’s print costs.

Deputy Provost Charles Long lauded the achievements of the University’s efficiency team as prudent.

“They can do what they need to next year with the money they had this year,” Long said. “We may have to do a little bit of balancing back and forth to spread those savings out, but that piece is not intended to be belt-tightening in any significant way.”

Leaders of Yale’s labor unions said they are glad last year’s layoffs will not be matched this year, but they expressed concerns over the proportion of temporary or “casual” workers employed by the University without the guarantee of job security or perks.

“It’s good that they’re not cutting anybody, but they need to look at the use of the disposable work force that is part of their system now, because there is serious potential for growth in the number of real jobs for people in this community,” said Bob Proto, the president of Local 35 and the Greater New Haven Labor Council. “They’re trying to maintain the existing level of workers that they have, and that translates into this revolving door of workers who don’t get benefits and don’t get real pay.”

The University has made some overtures towards increasing employment, but more could be done without substantially stretching the budget, Local 34 President Laura Smith said.

Pepper said he agreed with the sentiments of Proto and Smith and has prioritized the increase of full-time employees, specifically in dining services. But he said the success of the efficiency program this year would not mark an end to the University’s period of careful budget management.

“This is not a one-year deal,” he said. “This is a multi-year, ongoing process that every company in the country is going through. Yale is a very demanding institution, so in order to maintain student aid and things like that, we need to cut expenses where we can.”

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