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COVID-19 - MB Gov wants universities to prepare money saving scenarios

By: Harry Callaghan
Posted: April 20, 2020 07:50

BU has laid off some workers - asking others to use up vacation time

Image: File

The Manitoba government is looking for ways to save money everywhere as it spends more and more in the battle against COVID-19.

We've already heard reports the pandemic could cost the province an additional $5-billion this year with most of that to be spent on health-care.

The Pallister government is now asking universities to prepare scenarios for budget cuts of 10% to 30% over the next four months.

In an emailed statement, Brandon University's Communications Director Grant Hamilton says the university has laid off some workers, is encouraging others to use up vacation time or take unpaid leaves - and is also exploring reduced workweeks or work-sharing.

Hamilton writes "Brandon University is pulling together in response to this coronavirus pandemic. All of us are united in the need to support our community, and we are particularly proud of the faculty, staff and students who are stepping forward directly, through PPE donations, volunteering with Shared Health, and keeping the university running and conducting classes and research while working and studying from home.

Like other publicly-funded organizations, we have been engaged in discussions with government, which has asked for our continued help in supporting front-line workers, especially in health-care. They have asked us to run a number of scenarios including for us to explore the impact of short-term (4 month) reductions of 10% to 30% in our workforce expenses. These are not necessarily wage cuts and we've been asked to minimize layoffs.

We have undertaken a small number of layoffs, are encouraging employees to draw down vacation and other balances, are supporting those who opt for unpaid leaves, and are exploring other alternatives include reduced workweeks or work-sharing. We have met with our unions, where these important discussions continue to take place, and we are working productively with them to find the options that make the most sense for Brandon University.

Closing BU is not on the table. In fact, this is a critical time for post-secondary institutions in supporting our communities, and especially in building our provincial economic recovery. As we continue to plan for an extended period of physical distancing, meaning we might not have in-person classes resume in September, we are proud of the BU community who are developing a fuller remote learning experience. There is certain to be intense demand for training and reskilling, as well as increased health care demand, and we are readying to meet that demand. We can't know exactly what the future holds, but we know that BU - from our Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies department to our Rural Development Institute - are poised to play a vital role in building Manitoba's recovery."

A link to the Government of Manitoba's document looking into the financial and workforce impacts of COVID-19 can be found below.

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