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UB proposes to cut cost, and cut staff

EyeWitness News Local May 10, 2020 at 3:40 am Royston Jones Jr.

UTEB calls on the university to be transparent with finances

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the University of The Bahamas proposes a series of cost saving measures that includes the early retirement of staff, the cancelling of the work-study program and a hiring freeze, the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) has called on the university to be transparent about its finances so other cost-saving recommendations can be explored.

In an emailed titled ‘Proposed measured for reducing university expenditures” dated May 1, UB President Dr Rodney Smith that as one of the cost-cutting measures for the current fiscal year, all members of the administrative council agreed for their own salaries to be reduced up to 10 percent, in addition to the suspension of mileage allowance.

“It is done in an effort to ensure that all UB employees receive an income,” Smith said.

However, the union said the concession of up to 10 percent was “meaningless” without providing actual cost.

“There seems to be an unwillingness on the part of UB to be transparent in sharing financial information,” the union wrote.

“This is unacceptable from a publicly funded institution.

“UTEB expects UB to be transparent about the entire budget.”

The administrative council outlined numerous measures to cut spending in anticipation of the economic crisis the COVID-19 pandemic poses on the country.

These measures included, but were not limited to, a hold on all hiring, with selective hiring subject to approval by the president; the encouragement of retirement for those age 65 and vested in the government pension, those who have retired with pension and have been on contract, and the early retirement of those who have served for 30 years, as well as maximum benefits for 40 years of service.

The council said no directive had been given for implementation and it was seeking feedback to the measures proposed.

UTEB said the university must bear in mind faculty have been owed increments and back pay for promotions.

It insisted it would be inappropriate to deny these benefits, while the president can engage in new hiring as his discretion.

It recommended accounting to be done to find alternative cost saving measures.

As it relates to the retirement proposal, UTEB said it would be counterproductive to even suggest removing seasoned faculty.

The union said the lack of succession planning, and the loss of institutional history from many of the senior faculty fair outweighed the potential savings to be gained from the exercise.

The union said: “It is also alarming that it could be conceived or considered an option given the nature of the work we do at UB.”

The council also recommended a hold on all bonus payments an increments the current and next fiscal year.

But UTEB claimed promotion exercises go back nine years and insisted promoted faculty not be further denied, but immediately placed at their appropriate salary scale.

It also said faculty who completed year-end evaluations reports based upon agreed guidelines, but were denied increment payments for this fiscal period, should be accommodated.

The council also recommended the cancellation of the work-study program; however, the union said the removal may necessitate the payment of overtime as the students provide an essential service to the various departments.

The university expects an increase in enrollment of students in Spring 2021, according to the council.

As it questioned how the university will manage the increase while controlling costs, the council recommended that the policy regarding class size be increased to allow for an accommodation of students within a “hybrid teaching environment”.

According to modeling presented by the university, a 20 percent increase in enrollment would require a students to teacher ratio to increase from 23 to one, to 28 to one; and a 30 percent increase in enrollment would require 30 students to one teacher.

UTEB said it expects the university to follow health and safety best practices as it considers a limited return to the classroom, and expects the university to be mindful of the vulnerability of its faculty.

As it relates to the Spring 2021 term, the union said the projections do not consider the economic factors negatively impacting enrollment.

UTEB said rather that extract “selective data and information”, it should be able to review the actual financial position of the university so that the appropriate advice could be made on where savings can be realized.

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