Layoffs rise with budget woes

In an effort to reduce its $39 million deficit, the University is implementing increased administrative staff layoffs.

Though administrators had thus far described personnel reductions as only a possibility, several Yale staff members confirmed Thursday that the University has already begun a series of layoffs. While one to two percent of staff members are normally laid off every year due to changes in grants and workloads, this year’s layoff rate is expected to be slightly elevated, said Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel.

One professor, who asked not to be named due to the sensitive nature of Yale’s budget plans, said the University is implementing a three percent cut in administrative staff for the fiscal 2015 year. But it is unclear what portion of that will come from layoffs and what portion will come from other reorganization moves.

The cuts appear likely to impact members of Yale’s Local 34 union, which includes many of the University’s administrative staff members — specifically, 3,400 clerical and technical employees.

Louise Camera Benson, a vice president of Local 34 and research assistant in immunobiology at the School of Medicine, confirmed the layoffs and restructuring, adding that the union is currently communicating and meeting with members. Local 34 President Laurie Kennington did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Lee Ann Scott, an account assistant in patient financial services and executive board member of Local 34, said the layoffs thus far have been primarily people in middle management. But, she said, the University keeps “threatening” to lay off managerial and professional staff, meaning individuals in lower-level management roles.

Several other executive board members of Local 34 confirmed Scott’s claims.

Scott said three managerial and professional staff in her work area are currently being laid off. But staff are generally unaware of the layoffs’ broader scope, she added.

“[Administrators] don’t feel we’re privy to that,” Scott said. “I don’t know if they’ve mentioned it to the head of the union.”

Members of the Local 35 union, which includes Yale’s blue-collar workers, are exempt from layoffs as a result of their labor contract, which does not expire until 2016.

Still, Frank Douglass, community vice president of Local 35, said the University has still found ways to reduce staff members who are members of the union.

“We have a no-layoff clause in our contract,” Douglass said. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t go around and get us out the back door.”

Douglass said that University has not filled a number of vacant staff positions and certain parts of the University are now understaffed. He cited a custodial shortage at Evans Hall, the new building for the School of Management, as one example.

Administrators said the layoffs are driven by necessity. Nearly two-thirds of the University’s cost structure is compensation and benefits expense, Peel said, and careful prioritization and control of staff costs will be needed to meet budget targets in most areas as a result.

“We believe that in most cases where it is necessary to reduce staffing levels, we will be able to do this through attrition by not filling open positions,” Peel said. “However, there will no doubt be some voluntary and involuntary layoffs as part of this effort, as there is in every budget cycle when new funding decisions are made.”

Peel said the University has to reduce costs and close its operating deficits to fund strategically important initiatives essential to the Yale mission.

Local 34 is trying to push back against the layoffs, Scott said, but added that the union and the University are trying to work together to maintain a working relationship.

“They’re adding two more colleges … but they’re cutting back staff. Looking at it doesn’t make sense,” Scott said. “Who’s going to do the work?”

The University aims to reduce administrative costs by five percent over the next three years.

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