Although their jobs largely seemed safe just months ago, some staff will be laid off in order to balance the University’s operating budget, administrators said this week.
Because University President Richard Levin on Tuesday mandated reductions on staff salaries and non-personnel costs of 7.5 percent — up from 5 percent last December — involuntary layoffs will occur in some departments, administrators said. Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel explained that it is unclear which departments will be affected and how many people will be laid off. Meanwhile, although Levin is cutting their salaries, faculty jobs will remain untouched.
“One would wish that we could operate countercyclically and expand the number of people we employ,” Levin said in an interview Tuesday. “But while we have a big endowment, we don’t have pockets that deep.”
LAYOFFS TO COME
In December, when he wrote his first letter on Yale’s endowment woes, Levin did not promise that the University would not lay off any workers. But administrators said at the time that attrition would be able to make up for almost all, if not the entire, planned 5-percent reduction. Employee layoffs were not likely — one or two, here and there, at most, they said.
Now, the tone has changed. In the most recent University assessment, about 600 staff jobs will be eliminated in order to ease budget concerns. Although administrators said they still will try to eliminate as many of these jobs as possible by attrition — leaving unfilled positions vacant — they also said it is no longer possible to rely solely on their removal to save on salaries.
“We’ll try to do it at an absolute minimum,” Peel said of the layoffs. “But 7.5 percent is a pretty aggressive reduction.”
In addition to the termination of jobs, sweeping layoffs could also mean cuts in work hours to fewer than 20 hours per week, or the conversion of a 12-month position to a part-year position, according to University policy.
When an employee is laid off, University policy states they will receive notice of at least 90 days. During that time, in addition to the employee actively seeking a job outside the University, an internal search would be completed by the University to see whether another department — one that is not struggling to cut costs from its budget, Peel said — could take the employee.
But if no job can be found, the employee will receive severance payment after leave. Although current human resources policy allows for about one week of severance pay per year of service, Peel said, University officers are evaluating the current severance policies to determine whether to increase it given the current economic malaise.
Yale’s unionized employees have built-in layoff security policies in their respective contracts.
For Local 35, the union representing University service and maintenance employees, members cannot be involuntary laid off due to staff reductions, according to its union contract. (Current Local 35 members could potentially be laid off if a department were to dissolve, though there is no indication that this will happen.)
For Local 34, the union representing University clerical and technical employees, workers can be laid off, but they then are able to join a Local 34 Interim Employment Pool. Since 1992, the IEP has allowed the unionized workers actively searching for a permanent job to stay on full pay and benefits and come to work at the University as casual employees for one to 15 months typically, depending on how long the employee has worked.
But in his letter to faculty and staff Tuesday, Levin said the University will also reduce usage of casual and temporary employees to curb expenses.
Local 34 President Laura Smith did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday. Yale unions spokesman Evan Cobb said Wednesday that Local 34 will “be mindful that the contract language is honored in all situations.”
The last large-scale layoff of Yale employees occurred in February 2004, when 76 people were cut. At the time, about 40 Local 34 members were notified.
The layoffs caused an uproar, and over 100 unionized workers and union supporters staged a protest rally outside 2 Whitney Ave., the location of the human resources department.
If the number of upcoming layoffs reaches anywhere near 2004 levels, community uproar will likely occur again.
When asked if unionization status would be a factor when considering whom to lay off, Peel said the only factor would be whether the occupation itself is inefficient to the budget.
The layoffs would also likely affect the New Haven economy, as residents who find themselves without a job from the University — the city’s largest employer — will struggle to find another.
“I deeply regret needing to take actions that impose a burden on the loyal and dedicated members of our staff,” Levin said in the letter.
And in addition to reducing temporary and casual workers, the University will also cut back on consultants, Peel said. Meanwhile, Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ’65 said Tuesday, there is no expected change to University subcontracting, which is used for various specialty services across campus, such as auditing and custodial work.