UC Berkeley to Cut 200 Positions

Friday August 08, 2003

Facing a $25.5 million cut in state funding, UC Berkeley is planning to cut 200 staff positions, officials said Wednesday. 

The reductions will include an unknown number of positions that were left vacant in recent months in anticipation of the state funding cuts. But campus officials said they also expect real people to lose real jobs. 

“The implementation of layoffs is a last resort,” said UC Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray, in a statement. “But the magnitude of the shortfall we face makes these actions necessary.” 

Gray said the university has “worked hard to address budget cuts through consolidation and reorganization” rather than layoffs. But union officials disputed the claim. 

“I think it’s really amazing that they begin the discussion about budget cuts with layoffs,” said Margy Wilkinson, chief steward for the Coalition of University Employees, which represents 18,000 clerical workers at UC’s nine-campus system. “There’s been no attempt to look at alternatives. There’s been no dialogue with the people who work here.” 

Campus spokesperson Marie Felde countered that the decision to keep “a great number” of positions empty in recent months represented a significant attempt to reduce the number of active employees who will face layoffs. 

Those who do get laid off will begin receiving notice “within days,” Felde said. 

UC Berkeley is the first UC campus to formally announce that pink slips are on the way, although job cuts are widely expected throughout the system—which took a $410 million cut in the final budget signed by Gov. Gray Davis Aug. 2. 

“The state’s final budget cuts UC’s funding so deeply that job impacts of one kind or another at all UC locations now appear unavoidable,” said UC spokesperson Paul Schwartz. 

Schwartz said it is too early to know how many jobs will be lost system-wide. 

Faced with the $410 million cut, UC hiked student fees by 30 percent system-wide and is planning to borrow $47.5 million. But the campuses still face cuts in libraries, administration, research and outreach to traditionally low-performing high schools—a chief tool for the recruitment of minority students in California’s post-affirmative action era. 

“The instructional mission is the area with the highest priority—both for the university and for the legislature,” said Felde. 

Felde said the largest number of job cuts will likely happen in the university’s Business and Administrative Services control unit—which includes custodians, tradespeople, clerical staff, payroll staff, campus police, athletics staff and more. 

Wilkinson said the clericals’ union has not yet received formal notice of layoffs, but is bracing for heavy reductions. 

“I can say, from previous experience, that they lay off from the low end,” she said, calling for more cuts in the administrative ranks. 

Wilkinson, who works in UC Berkeley’s library system, said the impacts of layoffs can be long-term. The libraries, she said, are still short-staffed in the wake of the last major round of job cuts in the early-1990s. 

UC Berkeley launched its “Staff and Academic Reduction in Time” (START) program in May, allowing workers to reduce their work hours and take a cut in pay to help offset budget reductions. 

Felde said she had no data on the number of employees who have taken advantage of the program.