Layoff notices were delivered Wednesday to 35 employees at the University of Prince Edward Island as part of the school's efforts to eliminate a $9 million deficit.

In a letter to the campus community, the university president said despite all efforts to minimize consequences to faculty and staff, layoffs were needed.

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UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz expressed regret regarding the layoffs. (CBC)

"I sincerely regret that the fiscal challenges we face as an institution necessitate these most painful decisions," Alaa Abd-El-Aziz wrote in an email to the university community.

University officials say many of the employees affected are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. UPEI's Human Resources Department and the Employee and Family Assistance Program are offering assistance to the affected workers.

In some cases, seniority bumping will take place.

Union seeking budget details

While the Canadian Union of Public Employees has not had a chance to examine all the cases in detail, it believes the affected workers are from CUPE. Bill McKinnon, a national representative for CUPE on P.E.I., said they are struggling to figure out how the situation at UPEI got so bad so quickly.

"What we don't know specifically is how we got to a $9 million. It's about 8.8 per cent of $102 million budget at the university in one year," said MacKinnon.

"When you think about last year with the three per cent cut there were no layoffs. There was some tweaking and some meetings about where can we save money, and this year they get a status quo budget and boom we get hit with a $9 million dollar deficit. Everyone is scratching their heads and we still don't have the details of where and how that happened in one year."

The union has requested a meeting with the premier, finance minister and minister of advanced learning to discuss the situation and to lobby for more financial support for UPEI.

The university also noted that it has been approved for a Service Canada work force reduction program. It offers assistance to employees who may be interested in volunteering to leave their positions to preserve the jobs of co-workers. The program will run from now until Oct. 31.

No one from the university administration was immediately available for comment.