U of M, union disagree strongly on library staff cuts  Banner Image

U of M, union disagree strongly on library staff cuts

Article and photo from Winnipeg Free Press

By: Nick Martin
Posted: June 10, 2016

A union at the University of Manitoba claims the university has let go of more than 40 workers in the last two weeks and more than 60 staff since January.

Association of Employees Supporting Education Services (AESES) president Laurie R. Morris told union members that the U of M has made "drastic cuts" worth more than $2 million in salaries.

University libraries alone have lost more than 25 per cent of their staff, Morris told union members in an internal email supplied to The Free Press by numerous sources.

"As a result of these substantial job losses, remaining staff will now be expected to carry out the high quality customer service that both students and faculty have come to expect with a fraction of the staffing resources. Over the summer and as the regular academic session begins, the library operations at the University are going to change and, in our assessment, will no longer be able to meet its obligations to staff and students and the institution overall," Morris wrote.

But the university argued Friday that the situation is nowhere near as dire as the union claims.

Public affairs executive director John Danakas said Friday that the overall reduction is just 3.7 full-time equivalent positions.

President David Barnard said in an interview that, "Each side wants to emphasize certain aspects. Our business is changing, just as everyone's."

Barnard said that there have been significant changes to university libraries. When he was a student, everything was stacked on shelves, and if he needed a book not available, he'd have to wait for an inter-library transfer.

Now, "It's possible for a student sitting with a laptop" to access almost instantly information which no longer requires the assistance and expertise of a librarian.

Danakas said some of the affected AESES staff have been moved into, or offered, other jobs on campus. Some are seasonal workers whose hours vary considerably. Early next week, the university will post new library positions, and has posted 79 new jobs this year open to AESES members.