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Layoffs are ‘last resort,’ Thomas tells colleges

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Layoffs should only be a “last resort,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has told the CEO of the College Employer Council.

“Layoffs should be a last resort,” wrote Thomas in a May 22 letter to council CEO Graham Lloyd. “These are real people with real families who live in our communities. They have made the colleges the success story they have been. They are integral to your present and to your future. Without their expertise there would be no college system.

“All employers are facing important decisions about their workforce. OPSEU is no different. As an employer we have certainly seen reduced revenues. Until things normalize, we are likely to see more. But in the face of that we are committed to preserving our workforce for as long as we can. We are asking you to follow suit.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

Mr. Graham Lloyd
Chief Executive Officer
College Employer Council
130 Queens Quay East, Suite 606
Toronto, ON M5A 0P6

Dear Mr. Lloyd:

We are living in difficult and challenging times. Uncertainty and anxiety are more than buzzwords. Those emotions are truly front and centre. But uncertainty swings both ways. It’s not all doom and gloom and now is not the time to overreact to the unknown.

All employers are facing important decisions about their workforce. OPSEU is no different. As an employer we have certainly seen reduced revenues. Until things normalize, we are likely to see more. But in the face of that we are committed to preserving our workforce for as long as we can. We are asking you to follow suit.

We understand that the colleges are concerned with revenue streams. And rightfully so. There are unknowns around fall enrollment and the return of International students. But then again unknowns are not necessarily negative. It is not outside the range of possibilities that enrollment could increase, especially if workers displaced by the pandemic seek training opportunities for the new and emerging economy.

There are ways and means to attract International students to enroll, even if it means working remotely for the time being.

In other words, revenues related to the fall term are really unknown at this time.

This is why we are asking you to preserve the cornerstone of the Colleges; your skilled and dedicated front line workers.

Layoffs should be a last resort. These are real people with real families who live in our communities. They have made the colleges the success story they have been. They are integral to your present and to your future. Without their expertise there would be no college system.

As you know we are currently lobbying both levels of government to work together to find a solution to securing the integrity of post-secondary education. These institutions are vital to both a highly skilled workforce and the sustenance of local economies.

I am asking that you work with us; Local leaders, the Divisional Executives and the central union to lobby hard to ensure the proper support mechanisms are established to not only preserve but to expand the role of our college system to meet the challenges of our next economy. If we are to achieve this goal no worker can be left behind.

In the interim, I am requesting that any planned layoffs be held in abeyance until we get a clearer picture of what the future holds. Don’t destroy what we have built together. As a respected arbitrator is prone to say, “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube”. I am available should you have any questions or comments.

Sincerely,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President