Consultant recommends outsourcing dozens of Clark College jobs

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Classified employees at Clark College are raising the alarm after an outside consultant recommended outsourcing dozens of jobs to cut costs.

College officials, meanwhile, say they aren’t considering the proposal — at least, not until after hiring two new people in the human resources department.

“We believe the recommendation on outsourcing will require extensive further study and analysis that can best be done once these critical positions in human resources have been filled,” wrote Bob Williamson, the college’s vice president of administrative services, in an email to the college Wednesday.

Clark College in February contracted with Seattle consulting firm Moss Adams to review its operations in anticipation of budget cuts. The contract cost the college $80,000.

The result is a sweeping 54-page report that points to a number of challenges facing Clark College employees, including frustration over leadership turnover, racism, the tension between faculty and administrators, and the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

At attention this week, however, was the proposal to outsource dozens of administrative service jobs, including groundskeepers and maintenance crews, as well as information technology staff. The report also recommends eliminating some instructional staff for a total reduction of 119 staff members.

The report also recommends adding some positions and shifting the duties and departments of others, for an overall reduction of 90.7 staff. That’s nearly a fifth of Clark College’s 458 non-faculty employees.

Enrollment down

The recommendations come as Clark College faces significant hits to enrollment connected to the novel coronavirus, cutting into its budget. Clark spokeswoman Kelly Love estimates college enrollment is down by 10 or 11 percent from last fall’s 7,473 students.

“The only place they were able to find savings is by eliminating jobs and outsourcing,” Love said.

Clark College cut $5.5 million from its budget in the spring, an 8.5 percent reduction in its $73.4 million budget.

Union leaders with the Washington Public Employees Association were swift to rebuke the report. Sarah Carlyle, the union’s chief job steward, said the significant elimination and outsourcing of classified employees is tantamount to union busting.

“The people that are working hard and doing a good job are the classified staff,” Carlyle said. She questioned why the college isn’t looking to remove high-level administrators rather than putting cuts on the backs of lower-paid classified workers.

Carlyle cited a union study that said Clark added 63 administrative positions since enrollment was booming during the Great Recession. She asked why those jobs aren’t on the chopping block as enrollment has declined.

“Why are you cutting the cheap folks that do the work, and have this balloon?” Carlyle said, referring to those administrators and supervisors. “Who are they going to manage and supervise? Themselves?”

College officials, meanwhile, say they will not consider the outsourcing proposal before filling two new roles in the human resources department: a vice president of human resources and compliance, and an employee and labor relations manager.

“(The proposal) has caused a lot of stress for our employees who are working so hard right now to help us keep the college in full operations during the pandemic,” college President Karin Edwards said in a statement provided to The Columbian. “The executive cabinet and I have decided the question of outsourcing requires extensive study and should not move forward at this time.”

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