Temp employees lose jobs as SRJC saves money

Albert Gregory and James Wyatt

In response to a growing $2.7 million budget deficit, Santa Rosa Junior College President Dr. Frank Chong announced May 3 a two-prong strategy to control spending costs. SRJC placed a hiring freeze effective May 8 on all management and classified positions not currently in the recruitment phase and will extend it to include Short Term Non Continuing (STNC) employees effective June 10. SRJC’s Vice President of Finances Doug Roberts recommended the efforts.

California Education Code, Section 88003, defines a short-term employee as “a person employed to perform a service for the District, upon completion of which, the service required or similar services will not be extended or needed on a continuing basis.”

One example of these positions are lifeguards who are hired annually to work at the pool when it’s open to the public, but once swimming season is over, these employees are let go and the job is not available until the following year. Other STNCs positions include interpreters of the deaf, art models and baristas at the SRJC Culinary Café among many other positions.

The hiring freeze will eliminate current STNC positions once current contracts are completed.

Karen Furukawa-Schlereth, SRJC vice president of Human Resources, said the SRJC administrators and the Board of Trustees will meet over the summer to discuss other areas that can be cut.

“I think this is just the beginning,” Furukawa-Schlereth said. “$2.7 million at this time is very serious.”

SRJC will try to cut positions and areas that don’t directly affect students, according to Furukawa-Schlereth.

“Faculty and students have to be our highest priority,” she said.

Furukawa-Schlereth said areas like grounds keeping could be cut next. Although the campus is immaculate, Furukawa-Schlereth believes it’s not worth spending money to keep it up if it takes away funds that could go to students.

In the past, school officials found parking attendants an unnecessary expense, and similar cuts were made.

Although SRJC is in a major deficit, many believe cuts to STNCs and classified employees are the wrong way to go.

“I was caught off guard,” said Culinary Café barista and STNC employee Samantha Tapia. “It sucks, it’s not cool and they should really consider us as workers too. We’re also just trying to help the school and help everyone out.”

The instability has these employees worried what their future at SRJC might be.

“It does worry me that I might not have a job,” Tapia said. “We’re still not sure what could happen with us and if we’re secure or not, so it’s kind of up in the air.”

The STNC employees aren’t alone in their frustration with how the administration has decided to address this issue. The faculty also disapproves.

The SRJC All Faculty Association (AFA) has been vocal with their grievances, after Dr. Chong sent the email announcing the cuts, the AFA posted an open letter to Dr. Chong and the Board of Trustees on its website. The letter states that the AFA recognizes Dr. Chong’s commitment to control spending and also asks him and the Board of Trustees to respond to a series of key questions about the hiring freeze, including: “What is the total amount of the savings the college expects by freezing STNC positions?”

The AFA also wants Chong to remind the college community of the increases that have been given to management and to the President and Senior Vice President of the Board of Trustees.

The local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is dedicated to improve the lives of workers and their families and create a more just and humane society, according to their website. SEIU has not weighed in on the hiring freeze and have chosen to respect the process and not share their public opinion.

The Board of Trustees and administrators will continue to meet over the summer and discuss other ways to address this growing budget deficit.