Association of Employees
Supporting Education Services

UM Libraries Correspondence

UM Libraries Correspondence

UMFA’s Open Letter to All AESES Members
(by Mark Hudson, June 9, 2016)

To all Members of AESES:

On behalf of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA), I want to express my great disappointment at the recent news that the administration is cutting close to 40 of your members’ positions in Libraries, thereby completely eliminating sessional Shelver, Library Assistant 1, 2 and 3 positions. This is yet another instance of the administration exercising misguided priorities.

The work of library staff is incredibly important, as the libraries on both campuses are crucial to the work of students and staff in all faculties and units. While we understand that some of the work done in these positions is becoming outdated due to technology, there remains a great deal of indispensable work that is being done by the members who are losing their jobs: running circulation desks, processing and distributing library materials, directing library patrons on the use of equipment, processing materials purchased for the Libraries’ collections, and more.

Library staff have already seen tremendous increases to their workloads as the administration refuses to replace people who go on leave or retire. This is causing considerable disruption in library services and we will now see additional work heaped on the plates of Library Assistant 3 and 4 positions. UMFA Librarians and Archivists, who are also feeling the weight of increased workloads, will also be required to take on extra work to help fill the gap.

With library staff already overworked, eliminating these positions will be sure to exacerbate disruptions in service and result in library closures. While library closures are not widely advertised, we are aware of at least 6 instances since February of this year when libraries have been unable to open, or were forced to close early, due to “unforeseen staffing situations.” This year, for the first time in at least 6 years, the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library at the Bannatyne campus was forced to close for the sole reason that there wasn’t enough staff to keep the facility open. These closures are a blow to the health of the University community.

In a fashion with which we are all too familiar, the administration made this move without consultation. They are eliminating Library Assistants without advice from Librarians and other library staff. This is an austerity measure imposed from above, a move that has become more and more prominent at the U of M.

This happens as we continue to hear about massive donations to the University. The former Faculty of Health Sciences recently received a donation of $30 million, last month another $10 million was donated for facility and technology upgrades, the engineering faculty received $5 million in the fall, and just a little over a week ago, it was announced that the School of business received a 7-figure gift. And while the administration again says it needs to cut budgets another three percent, we hear that the University is projecting a surplus of $68 million.

At UMFA we hear more and more about the effects of cuts like these. In the Faculty of Arts, for example, Faculty Council reports that dozens of academic staff positions have been lost in the last 2 years. Funding for sessional positions has been lost. Some courses have seen enrollments swell and students are being denied admission to courses because there is just no room and not enough people to teach extra classes. The number of courses offered in the Faculty has been reduced by about 10%. Students are forced to delay their graduation because they can’t get into the courses they need, or they are enrolling in courses in other institutions and then dealing with the added complication of obtaining permission to transfer the credit to complete a program.

The administration is making choices — the wrong choices. The work you do is incredibly valuable, and necessary for academic staff to continue producing high quality research and a top-notch learning experience for the students of the University of Manitoba. The administration needs to re-evaluate its priorities and vision. Students will not get the education they expect and deserve if these cuts to staff, course offerings, and services continue.

In solidarity,

Mark Hudson UMFA President

AESES’ Email to UM Membership
(by Laurie Morris, June 10, 2016)

AESES Position Discontinuances at the University of Manitoba

To:  All AESES-UM Members

In the past two weeks, the University of Manitoba has discontinued over 40 full-time and part-time AESES’ positions, primarily throughout the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campus libraries. Since the beginning of 2016, approximately 60 positions have been eliminated university-wide. This has significantly changed the lives of many of our members and, in many cases, they will no longer have work at the University.  In excess of $2 million dollars’ worth of AESES salaries has been eliminated through these drastic cuts.

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. There has been a 25% loss in library staff over a very short timeframe and we anticipate that these staffing reductions will be far too severe and will correspondingly result in reduced end services for users.  Complicating all of this is the extensive overtime that many of our members already routinely contribute to the campus on a daily basis. In our last survey of our membership, over 50% of respondents were working through breaks and lunches, coming in early and/or staying late, and taking work home without claiming this extra time. For many, they do this to uphold the high standards students and faculty are accustomed to, or they are fearful of reducing standards as they see this as potentially leading to disciplinary action. This is deeply troubling to AESES and we have raised this matter with the senior administration in the University; however, there has been no formal recognition of this problem to date.

At the libraries, the targeting of our lowest wage earners, combined with the timing of the reductions during their seasonal layoff, was done to save money through the most disadvantaged staff in our membership, while library management positions have remained untouched. Morale in the libraries has been significantly eroded and remaining staff continue to fear for their jobs going forward.  It is disappointing that the library management chose to displace so many of these individuals, without the foresight to train and promote affected staff members to allow them to assume the more complex functions management envisions for future library operations.

The actions by the University have further reduced the collegial environment that used to exist and have resulted in our staff being taken for granted with regard to workload. Going forward, existing library staff will no longer have predictable schedules as they will now have to work days, evenings and weekends to keep libraries open, with no serious consideration to work-life balance. AESES, with the help of our members, will be carefully monitoring job duties and workload issues following these reductions to ensure remaining staff are being supported and not disadvantaged further.

We are continuing to work with all of our affected members, those who have lost their jobs and those remaining, to ensure that their rights are being observed and protected. We ask that the membership also offer support by voicing concerns where services have deteriorated or workloads have unrealistically been increased.

Laurie R. Morris, President

U of M, Union Disagree Strongly on Library Staff Cuts
(by Nick Martin, Winnipeg Free Press, 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.

Letter to the Editor, WFP – Libraries Face Staffing Shortage
(by Mark Hudson, Winnipeg Free Press, June 16, 2016)

I would like to clarify some remarks reported in Nick Martin’s article.

The first has to do with the distinction between library technicians and academic librarians. Members of the Association of Employees Supporting Education Services (AESES) are library technicians whose duties include managing books within the library (shelving, checking in and out, helping patrons find what they are looking for), managing patron cards and records, borrowing books and articles from other libraries, generally keeping libraries open and orderly and supporting librarians. While they also had other duties, this makes up the bulk of the work done by those whose jobs will be taken away in the next few months.

Secondly, academic librarians like those represented by my union do not dispute Dr. Barnard’s comment it’s now “possible for a student sitting with a laptop” to access information almost instantly. However, it is academic librarians and the library technicians who support them — not simply computers — that make all of that information instantly accessible. All of the resources within the University of Manitoba libraries’ electronic collection were selected, negotiated and purchased by librarians, and it is librarians who create the websites to search for and access this information.

Despite a significant shift to electronic resources, the libraries still have books and students and faculty still come to the libraries in droves. Even before the recent round of job cuts, the libraries were understaffed: There have been at least six instances since February when libraries at the U of M were unable to open, or were forced to close early, because of “unforeseen staffing situations.” This at an institution that aspires to be among the top 15 research universities in the country. This further reduction in staffing at the libraries will result in more of these “unforeseen” shortages, and service for researchers and students will suffer. Smoothly running libraries are at the heart of the university mission, and these cuts weaken them substantially.

It is also true that in the time of “instantly accessible information” there are new economic and political constraints that limit that instantaneity. I note but one example: while the U of M libraries have fresh print copies of the Winnipeg Free Press each day, the electronic database only allows students and faculty access to content that is more than two months old. Similarly, online access to the Winnipeg Free Press archives is available only at select computer terminals.

Libraries are a public good that are under attack across the country — the recently announced closure of more than half of Newfoundland and Labrador’s public libraries is but an extreme example. Shamefully, it appears that it is not only governments underestimate and misunderstand the role of libraries, but also university presidents.

– Mark Hudson, President, University of Manitoba Faculty Association

 

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians’ Response Letter to President Barnard
(by CAPAL/ACBAP Board of Directors, June 20, 2016)

June 20, 2016

Dr. David T. Bernard
President and Vice Chancellor
Office of the President
2002 Administration Building
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB
R3T 2N2

Dear Dr. Bernard,

Re: Comments in “UofM, union disagree strongly on library staff cuts”
Winnipeg Free Press, June 6, 2016

On behalf of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians / Association canadienne des bibliothecaires academiques professionnels (CAPAL/ACBAP), we write to express our support for concerns raised by the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) in the wake of drastic cuts to the Libraries’ shelver and assistant technician positions. These cuts will exacerbate what appears to be an already untenable situation. It has been reported that since February, the University of Manitoba Libraries have had six instances of library closures due to “unforeseen staffing situations.”

We also wish to express our dismay at the University of Manitoba President’s remarks made in the Winnipeg Free Press, specifically:

Bernard 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.

While we concur that university libraries have changed significantly in recent years, this dismissive statement about the profession ignores the expertise that librarians bring to the academic enterprise and profoundly conflates the library as place with academic librarianship as a profession.

Intellectual freedom and access to information are foundational principles for academic librarianship and indeed for universities. Academic librarians uphold these principles through the development of library services, systems, collections, and programs in support of research and teaching. In the 21st century, academic librarians are no longer the “keepers of knowledge” but rather are partners in the cultivation, facilitation, and sharing of knowledge. We are intimately tied to the research life cycle and bring valuable expertise to matters of knowledge production,
dissemination, and preservation including intellectual property, copyright, scholarly communications, bibliometrics, and open access issues.

Few understand the academic librarian’s role as an educator and teacher. Yet, information literacy is a key pillar of our professional practice. Academic librarians not only connect users with the information they need, but more importantly, they help students situate, evaluate, and contextualize such information. Critical engagement with information is essential to a democratic society, and in a democracy, universities play a key role in developing an engaged citizenry. As professionals committed to facilitating access to uncensored and unbiased information, academic librarians are integral to the fulfillment of the university’s academic mission and its responsibility to society.

CAPAL/ACBAP is a national organization representing academic librarians and the profession of academic librarianship in Canada. Our mission is to promote, advance, and support the profession of academic librarianship for the advancement of research, teaching, and learning at accredited post-secondary institutions and to further the professional interests of our members. We believe that our academic communities are enriched when academic librarians are respected, supported and recognized as equal academic partners in the building of excellent teaching and research communities.

Respectfully,
CAPAL/ACBAP Board of Directors

Colleen Burgess (Western University)
Douglas Fox (Victoria University in the University of Toronto)
Leona Jacobs (University of Lethbridge)
Mary Kandiuk (York University)
Eva Revitt (MacEwan University)
Lisa Richmond (Wheaton College)
Harriet Sonne-de-Torrens (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Ali Versluis (University of Guelph)
Anna Wilson (University of Alberta)

Article – A Librarian’s Perspective on Recent Restructuring
(by Les Moor, UM Today, June 27, 2016)

Over the last few weeks, news of staff reductions at the University of Manitoba Libraries has been making its way through the University, the local media, and far beyond.  The news is painting a one-sided picture of reckless cuts with no consultation and apparently no regard for service quality.  The University administration has been blamed for these cuts, which are being cited as evidence of its misplaced priorities.  As a librarian at the University of Manitoba who has some familiarity with this issue and the events that preceded it, I feel it necessary to speak out to counter this inaccurate, unbalanced, and potentially destructive message.

The decision to cut some positions was made not by University-level administration but by Libraries’ Administration and all eight Libraries Department Heads as part of a two-day consultation and planning session.  It’s my understanding that AESES was consulted not long after.  In the months preceding this meeting the University Librarian visited all libraries to make all our staff aware of the budgetary challenges we were facing and everyone had the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions.  I believe that the amount of consultation that took place was actually more than is typical in this type of situation and I have difficulty believing that any more would have been helpful.

The planning session within which the decision to cut these positions was made included a number of equally important decisions, i.e. to:  1) increase our academic staff complement; 2) increase our high-level support staff complement; 3) replace part-time positions with full-time ones; 4) address the problem of library closures due to staffing issues; 5) protect access to important scholarly resources; and 6) offer more support to emerging areas of need such as research data curation, article deposit, and mixed and experiential learning initiatives.  In order to accomplish all of these things in a time of budgetary challenge we decided to reduce staff in areas of declining use so that we could increase staff in areas of growing demand.  Beginning this summer we will also make more use of technologies to reduce the manual work that front-line staff have to do, including booking study rooms, checking out library materials, and handling cash and fee payments.  Indeed, everything at those meetings was about growth and improvement in the Libraries except for the one thing that is actually being reported.

While the budget cut was bad news, it affected all faculties and not just the Libraries.  In the meantime, the sharp drop in the value of the Canadian dollar last fiscal year led to an over-expenditure of the Libraries’ scholarly resources budget of over one million dollars.  Covering this would have meant going through a painful exercise of cancelling purchases and subscriptions and believe me this pain would have been felt by the entire University community.  Instead, the University administration stepped up and covered most of this over-expenditure.  The suggestion that the University administration is operating on misguided priorities because of a single decision which they didn’t even make, while ignoring their highly beneficial support to the Libraries in other areas such as this, seems unjustified.

News from various sources is bouncing around the country, of the University recklessly slashing the Libraries’ budget with a resulting inevitable service crisis, when in fact the demands placed on the Libraries – and with it its staffing allocations – are shrinking in some areas while growing in others.  Meanwhile, with considerable help from the University administration, we have managed to protect access to costly scholarly materials in the face of a sharp currency drop.  Ironically, the one-sided message that is being heard may actually threaten our efforts to recruit for academic positions this summer because people are only hearing about cuts and may be reluctant to come to a library system that is incorrectly portrayed as in decline.  I hope that more balanced communications in the future will emerge to help address this threat.

– Les Moor, Associate Librarian/Head, Technical Services, University of Manitoba Libraries

AESES’ Response Letter to President Barnard
(by Laurie Morris, July 7, 2016)

July 7, 2016

Dr. David Barnard
President and Vice-Chancellor University of Manitoba
202 Administration Building Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Dear Dr. Barnard:

I am writing to you as the President of the Association of Employees Supporting Education Services (AESES) on behalf of our members.

As you know, there have been recent and significant job losses in the UM libraries, in addition to the other job losses campus-wide, as a result of the budget  cuts to faculties and units over the past several years. These job losses have been life-altering for our members who, in many cases, no longer have work at the University of Manitoba. I do not believe you fully appreciate nor understand the effect of these losses to the remaining AESES community, and this is the purpose of my writing to you today.

Our membership feels as though it is under siege and has been decimated in many departments, programmes and  areas not only by virtue of the large number of positions that have been discontinued, but also in the overall mental health and emotional well-being of all AESES members. The morale of our membership at this institution has certainly reached its nadir. Our Association has never seen morale as low as it is currently (except perhaps during the 1975 strike) and the feelings of respect and collegiality that were once so prevalent across the institution have now been seriously eroded.

There are employees – your employees- who have given up their working careers to the University and who are being summarily dismissed without even an opportunity to say goodbye to their co­ workers. Three AESES positions in 1ST were discontinued a couple weeks ago. These three individuals had over 90 years of combined experience, each  in technical roles in unique and diverse environments. It is difficult to believe that an area with more than 200 employees could not find, or had no interest in finding, meaningful work for these long standing, very experienced employees. Instead, these people who had devoted much of their working lives to the University of  Manitoba were let go under the pretext of reorganization and escorted from campus as though they’d done something illegal. There  has been no recognition of their long and dedicated service as someone resigning or retiring would routinely receive.   Sadly, employees with but a few years of service who resign get more recognition than these long standing individuals did. As one of our members observed, “There is no social conscience being displayed by the University and any sense of collegial community seems to have been long eradicated.”

Events such as those in 1ST and the Libraries have resulted in an overall environment of uncertainty and fear for our entire membership. A number of areas are holding staff meetings to discuss “reorganization” which has now become a terrifying word for our members. AESES is receiving calls and emails on a regular basis from members fearful that they are next in line for being let go.

In the UM libraries, there were 38 individuals who had seen their positions discontinued, with only two positions (as of today’s date) being made available to these displaced employees. Thirty-six people are now without continuing employment and these lay-offs were done at a time of year when most will not receive the benefit of their paid notice period. This adds insult to injury for these individuals, and any feelings of worth and value to the University they once had have completely disintegrated.

The necessity for these positions to be eliminated, and how these losses will be accommodated, have not been clearly communicated to those left working in the libraries. There are many questions that are being asked by our members that we, as their union, are unable to answer and that library management is refusing to answer. In the end, staff are struggling to understand why these changes are taking place or what expectations are going forward.

The following are just some of the comments we’ve received from our members in response to the lay-offs and your remarks in the June 10th article in the Winnipeg Free Press:

  • “… My concern is your comment or insinuation that somehow the assistance and expertise of a librarian does not appear to be required due to the ease and availability of access to required “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.
    From my vantage point in working directly with students on a daily basis this remark or insinuation that somehow somewhere down the line libraries have no need or will have no need of librarians is false in a world bombarded by information.
    The traditional role of the library is changing but many a student are still in dire need of guidance towards smartly navigating, canvassing, locating, discerning, organizing and presenting information. In a sea of information, librarians and library staff are valuable guide posts who aid patrons in keeping their head above water towards their goal of higher learning. It never ceases to surprise me how often I encounter students stressed and seeking guidance for a paper that is due in two hours.”
  • “The removal of library assistants (tremendously undervalued) has been library assistants are greatly needed in that they ensure that background or less sexy tasks are completed giving time for others to provide more attentive library service. As with any workspace when the foundation of certainty is removed then the whole wall collapses into a debris of confusion, stress and low morale.”
  • “Sometimes it boggles the mind when administration reduces the lower level positions saving pennies instead of looking at the higher salaried positions where one or two of those positions being cut would save as much as 10 lower level jobs” “a blanket dismissal of the services and work done by these people is very upsetting…the work will still be there, and who will end up picking up the pieces.”
  • “I am weeks away from retirement and am leaving an institution that is unrecognizable”
  • “So, it is not only the outright loss of positions that is worrisome, it is the off-loading of duties onto other staff and continuous downgrading of positions after a person leaves.”
  • “I used to feel valued at this institution.”
  • “… we should all pause and look at the glossy image created under the current At Convocation, there were the speeches of all the wonderful things that U of M is doing. There are the big signs at the airport and ads in flight magazines. The recent new publication UM Today is full of wonderful accomplishments. There are new buildings all over campus. New grants bring in equipment. Yet, with all of this we have less staff to fill the buildings, less renewal of teaching staff, fewer people working in the libraries, less staff to maintain the buildings. The institution is  becoming a corporate image bolstered by marketing, covering serious  organizational and human resource issues. I am very glad to be gone.”
  • “Library assistants and other front-line support understand that budget cuts are required and are willing to work cooperatively with all staff in the university community to find places to However, maybe those job losses did not have to happen at all if the much higher-paid university president and his administrative staff had also been willing to take some pay cuts. That way, we would all have been able to keep our jobs. It’s time for the U of M president to lead by example.”

In addition, the remaining staff members in the libraries, many with very long service records, are now being told that they will have to work varying schedules including evenings and weekends. These are individuals who have relied upon a consistent schedule throughout their working career, including single parents who will have difficulty in securing appropriate childcare for these routinely varying shifts, and those with parent-care obligations. These changes create a significant disruption to employees’ personal lives, which adversely affects not only the employees, but also their families.

Library staff are also facing increased workloads to compensate for the significant job losses. By our records, the University has experienced a loss of nearly 30 full-time continuing positions in the libraries since 2007, which equates to over 25% of jobs lost for this position category, or 45,500 work hours. Library staff were already struggling to maintain adequate levels of service prior to this recent round of job cuts, which has now made it nearly impossible. Some libraries have been instructed to simply leave doors open where no staff are available to work. The potential for theft and/or damage to University property has been largely increased due to this lack of staff.

Increasing workloads have been a long standing problem for our membership. During this last round of bargaining with the University, AESES conducted a members’ survey to gather various types of data. One of the more alarming pieces of information we received was that nearly 50% of our full­ time members are contributing free time to the University by working through their breaks and lunch hours, coming in early, staying late, and taking work home with them. Our members are doing this extra work, without any form of compensation, just to stay on top of their workloads and maintain the excellent level of service they are providing to students and faculty.

The staffing reductions will also result in situations where our members will be subject to working alone, including evenings and weekends when there are reduced numbers of students and staff on campus. This causes us grave concern, particularly in light of the recent attack on the Red ·River College student at the Selkirk Behavioural Health Foundation. Members have expressed great trepidation over this and it is a recurring theme in the many of the questions we are receiving. This is especially so for those members in our Libraries at the Bannatyne Campus and hospitals since their locations are not in the safest part of the city.

We are disappointed that an institution that considers itself “innovative”, “trail blazing” and a “top 25 employer” can treat its employees this way given the harm it’s doing to them and their families.

We fail to appreciate the rationale behind the large number of position discontinuances. Many have been cited as a response to budget cuts; however, the University has recently forecast an operating surplus of $94 million dollars for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and $68 million dollars for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Even with these surpluses, our members have been told there is no money available to support their continued work at the University.

We are therefore asking you, as the President and Vice-Chancellor  of the University:

  • What plans does the U of M have to address the climate of fear and anxiety that has developed and continues to perpetrate, beyond a simple shortcut on people’s desktops to EFAP?
  • What does the University intend to do about the increased workload that remaining members have been saddled with in light of these excessive cuts?
  • Library staff have been informed that vacation approval during the academic term may be denied where staffing resources are The University has created this staffing shortage by eliminating over 40 positions. How is it conceivably fair for remaining staff to be told that they may potentially be facing an eight-month vacation blackout period?
  • How does the University intend to address security on campus overall for students, faculty and staff, particularly given that there are no minimum requirements for security personnel? There are times at the Fort Garry campus where there is only one security guard available to attend to calls and Given that lone guard may be in Smart Park, how can they reasonably respond to a situation at say, Robson Hall?
  • How will the University ensure the security and protection of our members who will be working alone, particularly in the libraries which are open to the public?

In summary, I write this letter to express the disappointment AESES feels with the direction the University of Manitoba is heading. It is time that the university entered into a period of renewal of its most valuable asset … its employees! We need to re-energize our educational programmes, along with the services and people that support them. Not only will this benefit students, teaching and research, but will also create stable jobs for all levels of staff. This is what a Top 25 Employer should be about.

Yours sincerely,

Laurie R. Morris, President, AESES

President Barnard’s Response Letter to AESES’ Response
(by David T. Barnard, July 14, 2016)

July 14, 2016

Ms. Laurie R. Morris
President
Association of Employees Supporting Education Services
103-900 Harrow Street East
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Y7

Dear Ms. Morris

Thank you for your letter of July 7. I would like to invite you, and other representatives of AESES, to meet with me to discuss the issues you have raised in your correspondence.

I certainly agree with your assertion that the University’s most valuable asset is its people; both academic and support staff. We have every intention of supporting the University’s employees as the institution adapts to challenges and evolves to ensure its long-term health.

Please contact my assistant, Jocelyn Striemer (474-8369) to set up a convenient time to meet. Should schedules allow, I will also try to invite one or more of the University’s Vice-Presidents to the meeting, along with Greg Juliano, our Associate Vice-President (Human Resources).

Sincerely,

David T. Barnard, Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor

UMFA’s Response to Letter in UM Today on Library Staff Losses
(by Mark Hudson, July 7, 2016)

To: All Members of the Bargaining Unit

The June 27 edition of UM Today News contained a letter on the recent changes in libraries where 40 AESES staff members lost their jobs.  I’d like to respond to some of the points made in that letter.

While libraries are indeed changing, that change need not and ought not include a loss of focus on the libraries’ core resource: the people that make our libraries accessible. Regardless of the form the UM’s collections take – be it electronic, paper, or otherwise – if library patrons don’t know how to find and retrieve those resources, our libraries can’t be used to their full potential, and teaching and research will suffer.

The work done by those whose jobs were eliminated largely involved tasks that are essential to the well-being of our library system: running circulation desks, processing and distributing library materials, and acting as a general aid to library patrons. While technology and innovation are important, online solutions still need a human hand to ensure that new tools are accessible and being used effectively. Contrary to the notion that in the online world, information is unproblematically available at the touch of a button, the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians writes (in a letter to President Barnard, copied to UMFA): “Academic librarians not only connect users with the information they need, but more importantly, they help students situate, evaluate, and contextualize such information. Critical engagement with information is essential to a democratic society, and in a democracy, universities play a key role in developing an engaged citizenry.”

After laying off 40 library technicians at the 1 and 2 levels several library technician positions were promptly posted.  It’s worth noting that in all of these new postings, almost every one of the key responsibilities listed in the job descriptions has to do with aiding UM library patrons or UM academic librarians in their own work with patrons. This clearly demonstrates the administration’s acknowledgement that people, not technology, are essential to our libraries. Also of note is that while there were only 8 such jobs posted, the positions lost amounted to upwards of 16 full time jobs.

UMFA’s concern is that regardless of the algebra of reorganization described in the article, both front-line service and librarians’/archivists’ core activities will suffer. The stresses on librarians and archivists are widespread and intense, but they are not felt uniformly across the libraries. Some units and individuals are feeling the squeeze much more acutely, so it is understandable that there are different perceptions of the extent to which libraries are supported. My concerns about the integrity of the libraries—and thus the university—are based on my experiences over the past year as president of UMFA: time and again, in meetings with large numbers of my colleagues in the libraries, and in correspondence with them, I hear that UMFA members are asked to do the work of two or more librarians, that more and more duties are added to their job descriptions, and that people are deeply frustrated with the lack of clarity coming from the administration on the direction that the library system is taking.

This lack of clarity comes from this administration’s interpretation of what consultation means. Often, Deans and other administrators will ask for input that they then largely ignore. We’ve heard from service librarians that the majority were not consulted about the changes in their staff complement, and were given very little time and very little information about how to prepare for the cuts. I speak here both as an academic and as an executive of the union: when the administration comes to UMFA for advice, very little of what we offer is taken into account. This is particularly frustrating given the amount of care we put into assessing the administration’s plans based on our first-hand experience in the classrooms and in the libraries.

Like all academic units at the UM, libraries have been experiencing budget cuts. It is UMFA’s position, however, that these cuts reflect decisions made by the central administration more than they represent an actual budget crisis. It’s the administration as a whole, and not any particular unit, that is pushing the UM away from what should be the institution’s central focus: supporting a flourishing of teaching and scholarship in line with the needs and abilities of UM students and staff.

Mark Hudson,
UMFA President

Letter of Support from McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association
(July 7, 2016)

To Members of AESES,

The work of academic librarians is essential to a strong university — it creates and sustains the foundation upon which education, research, and innovation are built. At the same time, we often see how undervalued that work is in the eyes of those far removed from our daily work. The recent announcement of significant cutbacks to library staffing at the University of Manitoba are worrisome, with recent remarks by the President of the University in the Winnipeg Free Press appearing to suggest that he badly misunderstands the vital work library staff do to keep the library — and the university — running.

We, the members of the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association, are writing in light of these troubling developments to offer our support and solidarity for our library colleagues at the University of Manitoba in their efforts to preserve both the livelihoods of library staff and the high quality of library service which depends on them.
Please keep in touch as the situation develops and let us know what further support we can offer.

In solidarity,
The Membership of the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association

Windsor University Faculty Association’s Response Letter to President Barnard
(by Jeff Noonan, July 15, 2016)

July 15, 2016

Dr. David T. Barnard
President & Vice Chancellor
University of Manitoba

Dear Dr. Barnard;

On behalf of the Windsor University Faculty Association, I write to express the disappointment we experienced upon hearing the decision about AESES member layoffs at University of Manitoba libraries.

The work of AESES library technicians is very important in ensuring that students and faculty have access to important collections that are not always available on line. Through their many activities, library technicians support the work of academic librarians, and assist faculty members in disseminating research and learning to both students and the academic community. Their behind-the-scenes work is instrumental in keeping libraries open, healthy, and responsive to patron’s needs.  We have experienced significant cutbacks through attrition in the University of Windsor libraries over the past few years and can attest to the downloading of work onto librarians who are additionally carrying the burden of non-replacements of librarian retirees. This does not lend itself to healthy or responsive service to patrons.

As much as universities are running themselves like corporations, even corporations do assessments to determine the effects of resource layoffs before they take action.  We urge you and the university administration to reconsider this decision before you lose the services of very valuable employees who are fundamental to research-based universities.

Jeff Noonan, President
Windsor University Faculty Association

Letter of Support from Windsor University Faculty Association
(by Jeff Noonan, July 15, 2016)

July 15, 2016

Ms. Laurie Morris
UMFA President, AESES

Dear Ms. Morris, and members of AESES;

On behalf of the Windsor University Faculty Association, I write to express the disappointment we experienced upon hearing the news of AESES member layoffs at University of Manitoba libraries.

The work of library technicians is very important in ensuring that students and faculty have access to important collections that are not always available on line. Through their many activities, library technicians support the work of academic librarians, and assist faculty members in disseminating research and learning to both students and the academic community. The behind-the-scenes activities performed by your members are instrumental in keeping libraries open, healthy, and responsive to patron’s needs.  We have experienced significant cutbacks through attrition in the University of  Windsor libraries over the past few years and can attest to the downloading of work onto librarians who are additionally carrying the burden of non-replacements of librarian retirees.

We have written a letter to the University of Manitoba President on your behalf (enclosed) to express concern about this recent decision, which does not appear to be made with any form of reasonable consultation to determine the effects ofthe cuts. As much as universities want to run themselves like corporations, even corporations do assessments to determine the effects of resource layoffs before they take action.

In solidarity,

Jeff Noonan, President
Windsor University Faculty Association

Brock University Faculty Association’s Response Letter to President Barnard
(by Linda Rose-Krasnor, July 20, 2016)

July 20, 2016

Dr. David T. Barnard
President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB
R3T 2N2

Delivered by Email: president@umanitoba.ca

Dear Dr. Barnard:

I am writing on behalf of the Brock University Faculty Association (BUFA) to express our serious concern at the dismissal of almost 40 employees holding Library Assistant positions at the University of Manitoba.

This job loss will have a major negative impact on the quality and number of library services that are offered to students and faculty, as well as increasing stress on librarians and archivists to unsustainable levels. For example, we have been told that there have been at least six instances since the start of this year that libraries at the University have not been able to open or been forced to close early due to staff shortages. Further, we understand that this decision to cut employees was made without consultation with Librarians and other Library staff.

The University’s action on this matter seriously damages its reputation as a place of a place of academic excellence. It also seems particularly incomprehensible, given that we understand that the University is projecting a surplus of $68 million dollars.

BUFA urges the University of Manitoba Administration to reconsider this ill-advised decision.

Regards,

Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.,
President, Brock University Faculty Association,
Professor, Department of Psychology

U of M Library Jobs Cut in Staff Restructuring
(by Garett Williams, The Manitoban, August 15, 2016)

The union representing support staff in the University of Manitoba libraries is lamenting the loss of nearly 40 positions resulting from ongoing across the board departmental restructuring efforts.

Laurie Morris, president of the Association of Employees Supporting Education Services (AESES), reported to members in an August newsletter that a total 38 positions were discontinued in May, including the elimination of 30 part-time positions and eight full-time slots. While 10 full-time job openings, with new duties and greater responsibility, have been introduced to replace the lost positions, Morris said the cuts will have a direct and negative impact on services.

“The staffing resources have now been reduced to, essentially, a skeleton crew with library closures and long wait times likely being the end result,” Morris told the Manitoban in an email.

Morris said the elimination of the part-time positions amounts to the complete loss of sessional library staff. She said the adverse impact of the restructuring on membership morale forced the union’s hand to break its general spirit of not raising public objection to changes implemented at the university.

“In this case, the groundswell of concerns raised by our members, and the immensely adverse impact this has caused to general morale, has led us to make our concerns public,” she said.

“Our goal in this is to impart upon the university the need to pause and reflect on the impact of their decisions and to reconsider what is the right balance for change.”

Morris acknowledged library administration held meetings prior to announcing any changes but said not all staff were invited to participate and suggestions that were presented largely went ignored.

“We had a brief meeting shortly before the discontinuances were issued to inform us that they would be taking place,” she said. “However, at the time of our meeting, the decisions had already been made to enact these job cuts and the positions had already been identified.”

Mark Hudson, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA), echoed Morris’ sentiments, expressing “great disappointment” in an open letter and called the action “yet another instance of the administration exercising misguided priorities.”

Hudson noted upper-level library staff, including UMFA librarians and archivists, have already seen their workloads increase in recent years and the further restructuring will only continue that trend.

“While we understand that some of the work done in these positions is becoming outdated due to technology, there remains a great deal of indispensable work that is being done by the members who are losing their jobs: running circulation desks, processing and distributing library materials, directing library patrons on the use of equipment, processing materials purchased for the libraries’ collections, and more,” Hudson states in the letter.

Hudson also noted there have been at least six instances since February when libraries were unable to open their doors due to unforeseen staffing shortages.

“These closures are a blow to the health of the University community.”

According to Morris, University of Manitoba libraries have lost more than 30 full-time positions since 2007, representing a loss of more than 25 per cent.

Since January alone, she said AESES has seen more than 70 positions eliminated university-wide.

Shifting demands
According to university librarian Mary-Jo Romaniuk, the 30 low-level, part-time positions – including shelvers and library assistants – amount to about nine full-time slots, based on working hours. She also noted three of the eight full-time positions cut were moved to another unit and one employee retired.

The restructuring is taking place across the university’s library network, which includes 10 libraries on the Fort Garry campus and nine health sciences branches.

Replacing the discontinued positions will be 10 full-time openings that will take on greater responsibilities, including one supervisor.

Romaniuk said the shift will help bring the university’s library services more in-line with the advancing customer service needs of students and faculty.

“We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t trying to be more helpful,” she said.

“This isn’t about cutting costs – because it actually costs more money to have higher-grade people – but we didn’t have the capacity to provide the kind of services that a research library should be providing in this day and age going forward.”

Romaniuk said customer service demands, especially from students, are largely shifting to online and the eliminated positions were out of date.

“They were jobs that were designed 20 years ago when we used to shelve a lot of books and people borrowed a lot of books and the skill sets for that really weren’t today’s skill sets,” she said.

Rather than create more library closures, Romaniuk argued the new staffing model will facilitate longer hours by pushing service requests online – where students can interact remotely with staff for assistance accessing resources, whether they are in a physical branch or studying off-site.

Electronic checkout services will also get a boost, including a downloadable app allowing books to be checked-out with a mobile device.

She added that staffing libraries with fewer full-time employees, rather than several part-time workers on various schedules, will facilitate more consistent service.

Romaniuk also noted security services are in place to ensure staff do not have to work alone and libraries are not left unattended, saying “the big piece is we have security backstopping that, so we should never have to close a library anyway.”

“I have some long-term people that still want to guard books but that’s not what we’re there for, we’re there to enable information,” she said.

“And I think the last thing we need to worry about is guarding books – we need to make sure our students are safe when they’re in the libraries [and] we need to make sure our staff are safe and that we have the right people doing the right things.”

Budget crunch
While departments university-wide are facing a third consecutive year of three per cent cuts, Romaniuk noted the libraries are faced with the aggravating factor of a fluctuating Canadian dollar.

She said a one-cent drop in the value of a Canadian dollar compared to US currency results in a $60,000 slip in purchasing power.

As a member of both the Association of Research Libraries and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, the university is locked into multi-year agreements as a means to control costs, including a locked-in inflation rate.

However, the agreements don’t have locked-in exchange rates and as a result, the 2016-17 university budget set aside an additional $1.875 million as a libraries acquisition exchange reserve, in addition to a $250,000 inflation allowance.

She said if university administration did not set those funds aside, library administration would have to make some cuts to purchases outside the locked-in agreements, which would affect some faculties disproportionately.

Overall, libraries are operating within a budget of just more than $25.2 million. While that marks a cut of more than $758,000 from a year ago, Romaniuk reiterated the budget isn’t driving the restructuring.

“You can say it’s budget-based – if you had more money, you would do things, perhaps, differently – but it isn’t really budget-based, it’s really about customer service in the long term.”

Did you know

AESES is affiliated with the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU).

AESES' Charter Meeting was held in December of 1972.

We offer scholarships for AESES dependants at both universities.

Anyone can attend a Board meeting by calling the AESES Business Office prior to the meeting and confirming their attendance.

AESES requires new volunteers for various committees. Please contact the Business Office if you are an AESES member interested in joining one of our committees.

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