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Layoffs at Thompson Rivers University will proceed in October

Layoffs go into effect in October, but not all will be permanent, as TRU is offering temporary layoffs in cases in which the university believes an employee’s work will return in four to eight months.
TRU Campus Activity Centre

TRU is moving ahead with 80 layoffs among CUPE staff members who were given notice a few months ago that their jobs were in jeopardy due to the financial crunch from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university is projecting a $9 million deficit budget this year.

Layoffs go into effect in October, but not all will be permanent, as TRU is offering temporary layoffs in cases in which the university believes an employee’s work will return in four to eight months, vice-president of finance and administration, Matt Milovick said.

“The employee would have to elect that as an option, so we’re trying to be as flexible as we can be, but we know there will be positions lost,” Milovick said.

A “handful” of layoffs on the administration side were also made, and more are expected to come, Milovick said.

He said there have been no layoffs to faculty, but noted there were some reductions through retirements and vacated positions that are not being refilled.

Additional layoffs are still a possibility this school year.

With the shrinking enrolment, Milovick said he expects there to be reductions coming in the number of sessional instructors, noting the university will have a better sense of that after the school year starts.

Pre-pandemic, TRU was projecting a surplus of between $8 million and $12 million.

Milovick said the university’s fiscal policy since the pandemic began in March has been once of extreme prudence.

TRU halted all discretionary spending, realized savings in travel expenses and reduced compensation through pending layoffs.

“It’s kind of all over the place, but we’ve adjusted our expenses the best we could in line with our revenues,” Milovick said.

In the spring, TRU had initially projected a deficit of about $6 million, but there was some movement in the numbers over the summer, Milovick said, noting costs were added for some sessional instructors.

The number of sales in on-campus housing was also lower than expected.

Milovick said TRU was expecting about 60 per cent occupancy, but it is at 30 per cent.

Currently, the university has about $207 million in revenue against $215 million in expenses. Labour costs are expected to make up about $149 million of those expenses. Prior to the pandemic, the university was projecting revenues of about $252 million and expenses of $244 million.

Milovick said a few capital projects were also put on hold to preserve cash, noting a $6-million project at 1274 McGill Rd., set to become a dayc are and research centre, was put on hold.

“There’s probably another $4 million worth of other minor projects we’ve stalled just to preserve cash,” he said.

TRU’s newest project is the Nursing Building that recently finished construction in the former parking lot behind the Clock Tower Building.