Cal Performances staff involuntarily laid off for fall semester

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Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
Twenty Cal Performances staff members have been involuntarily laid off due to budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the layoffs are meant to be temporary, there is no definite date for when the layoffs will cease.

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While campus leadership previously released voluntary workforce actions for faculty and staff in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Cal Performances staff members have been involuntarily laid off.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, some departments may have needed to take actions, such as temporary work reassignment, temporary layoffs with benefits or permanent layoffs, to reach budget targets. These measures have affected 20 Cal Performances staff members, whose layoffs took effect Aug. 1 and will continue until Nov. 28.

“I appreciate that UC Berkeley held onto as many people for as long as possible,” said former Cal Performances staff member Erin Wiens. “Even with that, it felt very sudden.”

Wiens, who previously worked as the rental services coordinator for Cal Performances, added that the reductions in staffing felt “targeted” toward the Cal Performances events and operations team, which is composed of the lowest-paid workers. According to Wiens, her contract was terminated, and she was not offered a job exchange and will not have the option to return to her job.

Meanwhile, other Cal Performances staff members were not affected, as they were offered voluntary time off and were able to use their accrued vacation and sick time, Wiens said. Wiens added that she felt the people laid off were those who “do the most work and never really got anything back in return.”

Staff members who were temporarily laid off were offered the possibility of a voluntary separation program. However, 11 of the people laid off are under the University Professional and Technical Employees contract and may not be eligible for the program, according to Amy Ferrara, Cal Performances event manager and Greek Theater manager who was temporarily laid off.

“I understand the layoff situation that is necessary to cut the budget,” Ferrara said. “But I don’t think my layoff was justified.”

Before her temporary layoff, Ferrara was considered an essential employee as the manager of the Greek Theater. Despite the pandemic leading to event cancellations, her job was still needed, as there were many repairs necessary for the building due to recent vandalism, Ferrara added.

Although staff members such as Ferrara are receiving benefits from the university, Ferrara said there is no guarantee that they will get their jobs back after Nov. 28.

“There’s no events on campus through December officially,” Ferrara said. “Perhaps they would extend the layoff, or give us another notice of layoff or a permanent layoff.”

Cal Performances officials hope that these measures will continue through the fall semester only, but there is still great uncertainty as to when event operations will resume, Gilmore said in an email.

Gilmore added that the remaining staff members of Cal Performances have been affected by a 20% curtailment of business operations throughout the end of the calendar year.

“We anticipate that the majority of any layoffs would be temporary and our hope is that most of these employees will return when the work returns,” Gilmore said in the email.

Zoe Chen is a research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820.