More details come to light on UT plans to spend $180 million and eliminate 500 jobs

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More details have come to light on the University of Texas at Austin’s plan to drastically downsize its workforce, in what the University is calling “Shared Services”. Shared Services, part of a larger plan entitled “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” written by the Committee on Business Productivity. “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” is a blueprint for privatizing many campus services at UT, including housing and food services, parking, custodial services, maintenance and grounds keeping as well as centralizing and consolidating many administrative functions at the University. The plan calls for running UT more like a business and less like an affordable, public institution of higher learning.

The Committee claimed its plan would save UT a total of $490 million over ten years, but the University has been purposefully vague on how these savings would be achieved. The University has not released any of the data or methodology that went into the report, with the Chief Financial Officer of the University, Kevin Hegarty, claiming “there is no data”. The Texas State Employees Union has gained access to a copy of a draft of the Shared Services Plan.

What is Shared Services?

  • Shared Services consolidates essential administrative functions such as IT, HR, Finance, and Procurement into one administrative organization
  • The draft Shared Services Plan indicates the University administration plans to eliminate 500 positions in the areas of IT, Finance, and HR, which altogether have about 2,500 full time positions.
  • In order to “streamline” the administrative functions at the University they will need to spend between $160-180 million

The plan is not clear on where this money would go, but what is clear is that the University plans to spend millions of taxpayer dollars in order to eliminate hundreds of university jobs.

Who Came up with this?

The authors of “Smarter Systems for a Great UT” are the very people who stand to benefit from the plan. The Business Productivity Committee is made up of 13 corporate executives and chaired by Steve Rohleder, an executive at Accenture. Accenture is a company with a sordid history of botched contracts with public institutions, including the failed $890 million eligibility services contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission which was canceled in 2007. Despite the history Accenture has had in Texas, UT has continued a relationship with the company, paying Accenture close to $1 million for the Business Productivity Report. Accenture is also a likely bidder on the multi-million dollar contracts that would be necessary to implement the plan.

Who has a say?

The recently formed Shared Services Campus Committee charged with giving feedback and guidance about the plan to the project team (made up of Accenture executives) is primarily a group of high-ranking University administrators, including a representative from UT Systems- Scott Kelley, Chancellor of Business Affairs.

Burning Questions:

The Shared Services Plan clearly raises some essential questions. How will the Shared Services plan impact the quality of the services- many of which directly impact students and the overall functioning of the University? What inefficiencies are they talking about? How is this plan more efficient? Where is the $160-180 million going to come from? Where will that money be spent? Why are they eliminating 500 positions? What other layoffs do they project? Is Accenture receiving any of this $160-$180 million? Are the projected savings guaranteed? What will the impact be on workers, both those who remain at the University and those who will lose their livelihood?

What is TSEU calling for?

TSEU is calling on UT to release all data related to the plan including an itemized list and timelines of specific job classifications which will be eliminated,  an itemized list and timelines of the specific jobs which will be consolidated including salary levels, and an Itemized list of projected quarterly expenses/investments and savings/profits over the next 10 years.  TSEU is further calling on UT to give employee and students groups (including TSEU) representation on the “Shared Services” planning committees and make committee meetings open to the public as well as release recordings and transcriptions of these meetings.

What can we do about it?

We can organize. Silence and lack of involvement does no good. The only response that has any chance of stopping this is plan is to stand up and fight back in defense of our jobs, our livlihoods and our future. It is time to get involved- Join the Union!

To see the full plan put out by UT, CLICK HERE