Algonquin College raises fees, reduces hours to close $25M pay equity shortfall

Algonquin College is increasing some fees, reducing hours of operation and cutting back positions in an effort to close a $25-million shortfall opened up by Ontario's pay equity legislation.

Union questions college's cost-cutting measures, asks for more detailed breakdown of pay equity shortfall

Duane McNair, vice-president of finance and administration at Algonquin College, says the college is taking several measures to address Bill 148's pay equity provisions. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Algonquin College is increasing some fees, reducing hours of operation and cutting back positions in an effort to close a $25-million shortfall opened up by Ontario's pay equity legislation.

Bill 148, passed by the previous Liberal government, requires employers to pay part-time staff the same rate for the equivalent work of full-time staff.

The current Ontario PC government is reviewing the law and Premier Doug Ford vowed Tuesday it would be scrapped

Duane McNair, vice-president of finance and administration at Algonquin, said the college's big shortfall was created because it's been recruiting staff for lower wages than its counterparts in more competitive markets.

"We're the only public English-speaking college in town, so we didn't have to pay the competitive rates of the pay that they do in the [Greater Toronto Area], where there's five or six colleges competing for the same talent," McNair said.

Parking fees have been required at all lots of Algonquin College's Ottawa campus since Sept. 1, 2018. (CBC)

Some part-time teaching staff have seen their hourly rate go from $35 to $45 an hour up to $70 or $80 due to the pay equity legislation, he said.

About 14 positions, mostly in administration, have been eliminated out of 1,400 full-time positions.

A handful of programs at the Perth campus were suspended earlier this year, and McNair said the long-term viability of that campus is under review in part because of the pay equity legislation. 

"Their sustainability has certainly been compromised to a certain degree," he said.

Food, parking price hikes

As well, the college has increased prices and reduced hours of operations at some on-campus vendors and service providers.

"There are some modest increases in our food prices in our food services area, in our retail services," he said. 

Evening and weekend parking fees came into effect in September, according to Algonquin's website, and students who take on extra courses are being charged more.

"Our parking rates have gone up a little bit higher than they have in the past. We've had to implement new fees for students that take extra courses above the standard workload," McNair said.

Union wants more information

Pat Kennedy, president of the college's faculty union — the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 415 — said there's nothing new about fee increases on campus.

"They've always done whatever they could to transfer costs to students," Kennedy said.

If there's reserves and there's money sitting in there, why are they not using that or some of it to offset the transitional costs?- Pat Kennedy, president of OPSEU Local 415

The union wants a more detailed breakdown of the $25-million shortfall and about how the college's various cost-cutting measures are addressing it. Algonquin College did not provide CBC News with this information before deadline.

Kennedy said some faculty members have reported having their hours reduced.

He also said the college's routine surpluses were accumulated in part by underpaying its part-time employees.

"They've been saving money," Kennedy said. "So I guess the question is, if there's reserves and there's money sitting in there, why are they not using that or some of it to offset the transitional costs?"

McNair said the college's $73-million reserve fund is meant to be used for capital projects, not operating costs.