NASA response to the SET Transition Plan

Many NASA members have likely seen the Service Excellence Transformation Transition Plan, which university leadership released last Thursday. While any additional clarity around the process and timelines for the restructuring is always welcome—and something NASA has been requesting for many months—NASA has a mixed reaction to the plan. We’re frustrated that the administration continues to fail to consult with NASA in advance of the release of new information, despite consultation guidelines being clearly outlined in the Collective Agreement. At the same time, it is useful to finally see some numbers and hard data.

The plan document itself is largely a repeat of what has been shared previously with the university community and with NASA. However, the information on page six of the document is new to us and contains the first detailed numbers that NASA has received providing any specifics on positions moving from faculties to central structures. 

Unfortunately, much of the information provided in the plan is still largely incomplete or contradictory.

Layoffs

The most critical issue for NASA members is, of course, job losses. As we’ve heard previously, the plan projects approximately 1,050 full-time equivalent positions will be lost in response to provincial funding cuts. Of these, about 400 occurred prior to the end of the last fiscal year on March 31, 2020. The plan projects that a total of $30 million will need to be saved this fiscal year (i.e., by the end of March 2021), and an additional $30 million next fiscal year, which equates to a total of roughly 650 positions. While the plan mentions on page three that “layoffs have continued” this fiscal year, on page 9 it states that “From January to the end of March 2021 … there will be a reduction of approximately 325 FTE.”

Given that NASA has already been notified of 159 position disruptions so far this year—126 of which were indicated as being due to budget cuts—plus additional reductions in auxiliary and casual positions, the discrepancy above isn’t trivial. We are seeking clarification from university administration as to why the layoffs that have already occurred this year seem to not be factored into their estimates. It's also not clear what the university is considering a layoff; is the university counting casual/auxiliary hourly and/or auxiliary salaried in the layoff numbers or in the attrition numbers? Or do they count at all in relation to the overall reduction targets that need to be met?

There is also no indication of how many of the projected additional layoffs will come from NASA, AASUA, and excluded Management and Professional Staff (MAPS). The only sense we have thus far of this breakdown between employee groups was revealed in the university’s opening bargaining proposal with AASUA, which stated that approximately 85% of the layoffs that have already occurred have been support staff.

Reorganization

The table on page six reveals the first specific numbers that NASA has seen that provide any indication of how many positions the university believes will be centralized in the Service Centres and Transaction Processing Hubs. The plan indicates that roughly 12% of staff—approximately 400 staff—will be moving to central units. However, the specifics below the table only outline 285 positions moving to central units, so it’s unclear from the document where these other 115 moves will occur.

There is also very little detail provided about what they will be doing, what work will be left in faculties, departments, and units, or what training and professional development programs will be available and in what format given the tight timelines.

Staff transitions to new roles

NASA was pleased that the plan reiterates previous commitments from university leadership to “aim for the minimum possible disruption of staff” and to “strive to post externally only when necessary.”

The plan states that current staff will be transitioned to new roles when the positions are “substantially similar to existing roles.” While the plan does state that such transitions are “expected to account for many of the roles within the new model,” more specifics on how many of the 400 positions are estimated to fall into this category would be helpful.

The plan also indicates that new roles will be filled first by expressions of interest through “internally-restricted postings” to current staff, and only new roles with substantially different job requirements will be posted externally without prioritizing current staff. Again, we’ll be seeking clarity on estimates for these categories, and NASA’s position remains that current staff should be prioritized for all new positions, with any required training and support provided throughout the process.
 

Finally, while we’re pleased to see the university continuing to promise “timely and purposeful consultation with AASUA and NASA,” our experience to date—including the lack of notification about new information in the plan itself prior to its release—gives us some pause. With significant reductions slated to begin early in the new year, a greater level of consultation should have already occurred, and we will push university leadership to provide additional consultation and more detailed information as soon as possible.