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Durham College sees layoffs amidst pandemic

Durham College has had to lay off 29 full-time support and administrative staff due to the financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Durham College photo)

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Some Durham College (DC) staff have recently received layoff notices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Human Resources Associate Vice-President Jennifer Cosway, 29 full-time support and administrative staff have been temporarily laid off at the college due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

“Since the onset of these unprecedented times, DC’s leadership team has been meeting regularly to continuously review effects on the college’s operations and finances,” says Cosway, noting numerous measures have been put in place to stem financial shortfalls, yet even with these swift actions taken by DC, a significant deficit persists.

“As a result, the college took the difficult step of notifying union leadership and staff of the need to proceed with temporary employee reductions,” she adds.

The support staff local voted in favour recently of a centrally negotiated agreement providing for temporary staffing reductions that include continued provision of benefits coverage for those who are affected. Administrative employees affected by the layoffs will see the same provision of benefits coverage.

The college campus closed on March 17 due to COVID-19 with courses moving mainly online and the majority of students being able to complete their winter semester online.

However, due to some face-to-face delivery requirements associated with some of the programs, Cosway says about 15 per cent of students were unable to complete their program.

“These are who we’ve been referring to as stranded students as they’ve been stranded in their programs, but we’re working now to reopen our campuses partially so those students who were stranded can complete their programming,” she says.

The spring and summer sessions have run in a modified manner as well.

Cosway says depending on how things look when the fall session starts, the layoffs could last up to 35 weeks.

“We expect to recall all of these [positions] once operations for the college normalize,” says Cosway.

“It was a difficult decision that was not taken lightly. We still very much value our colleagues and we look forward to being back on campus and having our colleagues back on campus with us.”