PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- A group of Rhode Island state legislators are calling for the reversal of mass layoffs at Rhode Island College and The Community College of Rhode Island due to budget shortcomings.
State Senators Samuel Bell and Frank Ciccone, Representatives Raymond Hull and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Representative-Elect for District 7 which includes Mount Pleasant, David Morales, penned a letter to RIC President Frank Sanchez. The letter calls for the “unfair layoffs” of 35 Council 94 union members, who were largely departmental secretaries, to be reversed.
The letter states, “We write in opposition to the decision to permanently lay off 35 AFSCME Council 94 workers at Rhode Island College. These workers are people and they have families to feed. To make layoffs during a time of economic insecurity creates real pain for the workers.”
The group of Rhode Island legislators asserted that the layoffs follow a pattern of ‘severe cutbacks,” listing cuts to “work share, hiring freezes, staff reductions, a delay of contractually bargained cost of living adjustments, a plan to close the Henry Barnard School, and brutal cuts to adjunct faculty,” as just a few of the attempts RIC has made to address the project $10.4 million budget deficit for FY2021. Additionally, the legislators claimed that the budget cuts for FY2021 and projects cuts for FY2022 , have been made in anticipation of funding cuts that have not yet happened. The General Assembly is not set to finalize decisions in regards to state appropriations for RIC or CCRI until November.
In a statement released on his Facebook, Senator Same Bell, who represents the 5th district in Providence, demanded that the layoffs be reversed. Sen. Bell argued, “Our state college staff are so important, and to lay them off in the middle of a jobs crisis is cruel. To do so because of budgetary decisions the General Assembly hasn’t even made yet is so aggressive.”
Further, Rep.-Elect David Morales wrote on Twitter in response to the layoffs, “It is important our State Government recognize the value that RIC has on our communities and that is why I will continue to demand RIC receive the funding they deserve.” Rep.-Elect Morales asserted, “In the meantime, we need RIC to urgently reverse their layoffs of 35 AFSCME Council 94 Workers!”
Addressing the Board of Education on Tuesday, September 22nd, President Sanchez claimed that the current academic year “will be among the most challenging years, financially, for the college,” referring to decline in enrollment, increase in state mitigation costs and a continuous decline in state appropriations as the cause of the college’s deficit. President Sanchez said, “ even though the college has taken a number of very difficult steps to address these issues, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty.”
Press Secretary for Governor Gina Raimondo, Audrey Lucas responded to the cuts at RIC and CCRI stating, “Every organization and institution right now is facing a difficult budget reality, and higher education is no exception. Unfortunately both RIC and CCRI have seen a decline in enrollment this fall, and they are forced to make tough decisions to balance their budget. It is our hope that as our economy recovers from COVID-19 and enrollment improves at both RIC and CCRI, these schools will be able to bring back many of these positions.”