by Peter Krebs, ASPA President
On October 30 2017, on our ASPA website, we reported on the results of the Voluntary Exit Program (VEP), by providing metrics on the number of participants, their home departments, family and phase, and the like. If you missed the article, go to (www.aspasask.ca)
The ASPA Executive also wanted to hear from the members about their experiences with the VEP, and their perceptions of the value of the voluntary exits. ASPA’s most recent one minute survey is the tool through which we obtained your feedback on the VEP.
We are very grateful to everyone who took the time to complete the survey: 540 members have replied, of which 52 respondents (of 78 who are leaving) participated in the VEP.
We find the results quite interesting and noteworthy, as they provide us with important lessons to reflect on the past, and to consider for the future, in respect to a voluntary exit program.
Here is what you said:
Do you believe ASPA made the right decision in agreeing to offer the VEP to members?
Just over 75% of the respondents replied “yes” and therefore clearly supported the decision made by the ASPA Executive to accept the VEP agreement. Only 2.6% of the respondents disagreed with ASPA’s participation. Most revealing were the open commentary provided by nearly 80 respondents. They expressed a wide range of sentiments, with the most frequent “themes” as follows:
- The incentives were not generous enough, the exit terms could have been more favorable.
- A voluntary exit is better than forced lay-offs – it is better for morale.
- This was an incentive for those near retirement to vacate positions and make room for career advances of younger staff.
- A reduced FTE appointment offer for voluntary participation would have been better than the take it or leave it propositions of the VEP.
- The VEP position loss is not strategic; the university loses capacity and experience in areas that are overly vulnerable through the exits.
- There is a concern about negative impacts on the remaining employees that have to assume the job responsibilities that still need to be fulfilled.
If a VEP is offered again, in the future, should ASPA again agree to this process?
Hypothetically, if a VEP will again be made available to ASPA members, a clear
majority of the respondents (77%) strongly agreed or agreed that ASPA should be engaged in this process. Only 3.3% of the respondents expressed either strong disagreement or disagreement to that proposition.
Almost 150 respondents had more to say about that question than “yes” or “no”. The following lists a number of themes in the open-ended commentary they provided:
- ASPA should attempt to reach the best deal possible.
- Offering a choice to employees is always preferable to layoffs.
- This process does not resolve the underlying need to reduce staff. If cuts are needed, they should be done strategically so that the organization can move forward without the threat of further cuts.
- This does not benefit our members. A VEP leaves us with fewer people to do the work.
- The VEP offer should be significantly improved in the financial compensation, to be attractive to more members.
- The VEP is particularly attractive to the members who are close to retirement. This group would benefit from this the most.
- The VEP exit dates should be staggered, managed, purposeful so that expertise is not lost at once. It should be limited in its breadth and scope to not be detrimental to the effectiveness of the work units.
- A next VEP should not be a staff reduction tool where staff feels pressured to apply, where the other alternative would be (more expensive) lay off.
- The VEP application process and rules should apply equally to all work areas on campus. There was too much individual discretion/power given to supervisors.
- A VEP should let people leave amicably, in a process where job responsibilities are divided up in a collaborative fashion.
- There needs to be more guidance provided to supervisors on managing the loss of capacity and how the remaining staff will compensate for that loss.
In our final assessment, the VEP provided a valuable opportunity to those of our members who were ready to leave the employment of the university: at a time of their choosing (mostly), in a deliberate and amicable manner (often), and with a financial package that was welcomed (mostly). We heard the voices of those members who are very concerned about the consequences of the departures of experienced and skilled staff, in units where no replacements are being hired.
ASPA will monitor how the devolution of job responsibilities proceeds, and we invite our members to contact the ASPA office with any issues and concerns they have.