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Wednesday, June 24,2009

Analyze this

Three counselors at LCC are laid off, but their union is fighting it and will file grievances with the college.

by Drew Winter

On a counter inside the Gone Wired Café on Michigan Avenue, a small yellow pamphlet sits loudly urging all who see it to “Stop the Layoffs!!” of Lansing Community College counselors Gilbert Hill, Craig Prether and Curlada Eure.


The three were notified June 5 that they would be laid off as the college tries to eliminate a budget deficit. Another 19 employees are facing the ax, too.


Some labor unions that represent LCC workers are putting up a fight, saying that the counselors are being let go in violation of their contract and plan to file three grievances by the end of the week with the college’s human resources department


Cheryll Conklin, Uniserv director of the Michigan Education Association for LCC, represents three unions taking action over the layoffs.

Counselors, unlike other workers, must be notified two semesters prior to layoff, during
which time the administration may rescind it, according to the
contract, Conklin said.


Board or Trustees Chairwoman Debora Canja said
that the administration would negotiate with the unions to determine
whether the three counselors need to be laid off, or if alternatives
exist to keep them on staff. The notifications, she explained, are a
way to get the clock started on the two-semester notice, so they have
the option of removing them as soon as possible.

Conklin
contests this as a smoke screen. In the mean time, the counselors are
still working.


The layoffs would strip the college of any counselors to
work with the general student population, because the remaining
counselors, whose jobs are largely paid with grants, only serve
international students and those with special needs.

"It is as absurd as it sounds," Conklin said.


None of the counselors agreed to be interviewed for this story.

The
union, Conklin said, has been trying to enter into talks with the
administration to find ways to cut costs for the past month, but
“they’re just not listening.”

“We believe that we need to
serve more students with more services, and we believe that we can’t do
that under our existing structure,” Canja said.


The college hired
Marvel Consultants to identify ways to cut expenses and solicited ideas
from the public.

“Our consulting firm took all of that into
consideration and told us that we have five too many people in middle
management,” Canja said.


To Conklin, the hiring of a consulting firm,
which cost $350,000, was frivolous. She also said that the
college’s spending money to renovate a 3-year old building and buy an
antique REO Speedwagon should not have been done, although those
decisions were made last fall.


“Given today’s budget realities would we
do that? Probably not,” Canja said, referring to the spending. She also
defended the hiring of the consulting firm, saying it was responsible
for finding $6 million in possible cuts.


The college also froze
salaries for highlevel administrators and made earlyretirement offers
to save money. Layoffs eliminated the remaining $3.3 million gap.


“This
is all about not increasing tuition,” LCC President Brent Knight said.
“ ... When we increase tuition we’ve lost our mission because we’re
here for everyone.”

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