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Measures to address budget challenges

Dear members of the McGill community,

I know that you have been awaiting news regarding how the government budget cuts will affect McGill, and what implications there may be for you, personally. After considerable consultation and careful consideration, we can now describe concrete measures to be implemented.

First, I would like to reassure you that overall, the institution is strong.  McGill’s mission and the academic excellence for which we are known around the world will continue to be our focus and our guide. In these tough times, we will stay the course with the successful academic programs we offer, and, where necessary, develop new means to support our students and professors.  Universities in many other jurisdictions in Canada and North America are, unfortunately, also facing cuts, and are also forced to make major changes as a result.

I personally thank all who have contributed helpful cost-savings suggestions during the University-wide consultations. Already $7.5 million of suggested non-salary related cost-savings initiatives are slated for implementation, in addition to on-going savings from our various Strategic Reframing Initiatives.  However, given the magnitude of the budget cuts announced by the Government of Quebec combined with the cancellation of tuition increases, we must aim to cut close to $43 million in expenditures primarily in base budget.

As salaries and benefits make up more than 75% of the University’s core operating budget, we have difficult decisions before us.  As a first step, to minimize the impact on job losses, we will reduce salary costs through attrition and wage freezes. In our community consultations, many of you expressed a willingness to make sacrifices in order to protect jobs, and I thank you for your generous commitment.  

Over the past week or so, members of the senior administration have met with representatives of each of our employee groups to discuss the range of possible measures. Those to be implemented are as follows:

  • A 3 per cent salary cut and salary freeze for all Senior Administration will take effect on 1 May 2013, the beginning of our new fiscal year.
  • An overall reduction ranging from 7 to 9 per cent in the operating budgets of the Vice-Principals’ portfolios and the Offices of the Principal and Provost.
  • A short window will be opened for a voluntary retirement program for eligible administrative and support staff aged 60 and over, to be announced on April 2. At this time eligible staff will also receive a personal letter outlining the elements of this program. In addition, the current voluntary retirement program for academic staff will continue.
  • A hiring freeze for administrative and support staff, effective April 2.
  • A temporary freeze on position-rematch and special salary requests for administrative and support staff, also effective April 2. 

Additionally, to help face this critical financial situation, we have asked each of our employee groups to accept a one-year salary freeze. To date, the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) has agreed to the freeze, effective May 1. Tenure-track assistant professors, however, will receive a 1 per cent across-the-board increase, in keeping with our recognition of the need to support them in their early career development.  We expect to hear back from our other employee groups following their respective internal consultations.

Other cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, are likely to be required in a second phase; the nature and extent of these is to be determined depending on the level of cost savings realized through the initiatives described above. We are doing what we can to minimize the impact on people by taking this two-step approach, in which we implement less drastic measures first and assess the savings. I regret the continued uncertainty and anxiety this waiting period will cause for many of you.

The months ahead will be difficult for everyone. McGill’s strength stems from the contributions of our talented faculty, students and administrative and support staff. We know the need to reduce our staff levels as a result of these budget cuts will affect the lives and work of many, and we are sorry that these measures, though necessary, will cause distress for members in our community. We will provide further clarity with respect to the nature of additional measures as we have it, and I ask you to please bear with us during this time.

Human Resources will assist units in managing the change that will result from the departure of colleagues, and, in exploring opportunities for greater efficiencies and savings.  

I hope you will understand that our top priorities will be to protect McGill’s core academic mission and to ensure, to the best of our ability, the strength of our teaching and research programs, support to our students and professors, and the well-being of all members of the McGill community.   

Let me close by thanking you for your strong commitment to doing what is necessary to ensure McGill’s strengths going forward. Your dedication and your willingness to make sacrifices on behalf of McGill are greatly appreciated. McGill has faced cuts and adversity before and has remained, against all odds, a special place to study and work, and a fine institution. We will keep you informed of developments, or additional measures to be taken, as new information becomes available.

Kind regards,

Professor Heather Munroe-Blum
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
McGill University

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