One story on the effects of coping with a layoff

By Amy Badry

Herman Friesen has worked in the University of Calgary IT Microcomputer Maintenance and Repair unit for 22 years. Now, after the decision to cut 200 University of Calgary support staff employees, he is another U of C former employee without a job.

“[The cuts] just don’t make sense,” said Friesen. He sees his shop as an essential service to university students and staff.

With the on campus repair shop closed, Friesen said taking the hardware to be repaired elsewhere will be a headache.

“I have had professors ask me ‘what am I going to do?’ ” said Friesen. “I don’t know.”

Friesen fears future cuts in university services.

“It will be interesting to see the effects in the near future,” he said.

Where the cuts will come from without affecting the quality of services and education provided for the students will be difficult to decide.

“Services will suffer,” said Friesen. “I don’t know what the plans are.”

He said after 20 years, his coworkers became like a family. The emotional impact of a layoff, especially after decades on the job, can be tough.

“I really enjoyed working here,” said Friesen. “I met a lot of nice people.”

Friesen said he’s undecided between looking for another on campus job or retirement.

However, he emphasized the hard reality of the cuts, voicing concern some people were “not going to be able to bounce back.”

He explained that it is the wrong age group to cut. “Many of these people expected to be retiring from this job — but that will not be the case anymore.”

With the recession and tight job market it will be hard for many to find employment. Companies seem to focus their hiring within younger age groups.

Leaving the job will be difficult for many people and termination is a tough situation.

“The university does not make these decisions lightly,” said Colleen Turner, U of C vice-president external relations. “Each employee is valued.”

The university is in a difficult position to create a sustainable and balanced budget. Turner stressed that when conducting layoffs and cuts, the university strives to be fair.

“Every contribution and employee is valued and recognized,” she said.

Each layoff is dealt with on a case-by-case basis and the university takes steps to provide support and services to those effected by the cuts, said Turner.

There are two options for people getting laid off, explained Friesen. They can take the abolishment and severance package or take re-employment. Re-employment does not mean they are secured another job on campus.

“You might get priority, however nothing is guaranteed,” he said.

The decision to close down Friesen’s repair shop was based on the IS2 project.

IS2 looks at support services within the university and decides what ways the university can improve and streamline operations. Turner said student services will not be compromised.

“The core business of the university is [the] students and research,” she said. “Students are front and centre. Reductions are in strategic areas and will not compromise students’ success. There will not be any change in level of services provided to students.”

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