Campus to eliminate 500 jobs over next 2 years as part of deficit reduction

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UC Berkeley will eliminate 500 staffing positions over the next two years as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce an annual deficit of $150 million, according to a campus memo sent to employees Monday.

The reduction in staffing, which is expected to save $50 million annually, would represent a decrease of 6 percent of the workforce. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele said in the memo, which details the campus’s recent short-term efforts to save money, that the campus anticipates its deficit will be reduced by $85 million — not including the $50 million in salary savings — by June 2017.

Faculty positions will not be affected by changes in staffing, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, although specifics on what departments will be affected have yet to be released. While some layoffs are already underway, administrators seek to avoid layoffs by meeting the workforce reduction target through attrition and retirement of workers as much as possible, Mogulof said.

Recent steps by the campus include debt restructuring — such as obtaining lower interest rates with help from the UC Office of the President — that is expected to save more than $15 million in 2016-17 and increasing philanthropic revenue. Additionally, campus divisions are expected to implement cost-savings measures totaling $20 million in structural deficit reductions across all units, though Mogulof said the number was a conservative estimate of how much the cost-saving efforts might ultimately save. According to the memo, the campus hopes to achieve a balanced budget by 2019-20.

The announcement comes two months after UC Berkeley launched the Office of Strategic Initiatives to address an annual deficit of $150 million. According to Dirks’ memo, the reduction in jobs would return the campus to levels of staffing consistent with the recent past, though UC Berkeley is set to see an enrollment increase of more than 1,000 students in the next three years.

“Nobody anticipates that we are going to be able to continue to do all that we are currently doing, in the way that we are currently doing it, with a substantially smaller workforce,” Mogulof said about the planned reduction.

A crucial component of the strategic planning process is determining what UC Berkeley should look like in the future, and consequently, the future of its workforce, Mogulof said.

Any staffing reductions, though, would have to take place at the administrative level in order to not jeopardize worker safety, according to AFSCME Local 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse.

“At a certain point, you’re creating a safety and staffing crisis if you’re cutting back on those front-line academic and student support services,” Stenhouse said. “There are real safety and security and academic quality imperatives that cannot be compromised.”

Katy Abbott is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katyeabbott.