WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17: Berkeley Institute plans to cut its admin support staff in half — making eight people redundant — as it attempts to cope with a $3m budget cut going into the new school year.

Angry union chiefs will fight the job cuts, which they say are like “capital punishment” in the midst of the recession.

Three similar positions have already gone at CedarBridge -Academy, with both of Bermuda’s public high schools feeling the effect of sweeping cuts from the last Budget.

BPSU general secretary Ed Ball said Berkeley bosses should have come to the table and exhausted all alternatives before deciding to cut jobs. He said the axed staff, including receptionists, secretaries and janitors, were distraught by the decision.

“They are taking this very seriously. They are losing their livelihoods.

“Everything that can be done to conserve jobs, should be done, and that hasn’t happened.”

Berkeley Institute had its budget cut from $13.475m to $10.485m.

CedarBridge saw its budget cut from $15.695m to $12.477m when the forecast was announced in February.

Negotiations

“This is about a decision that was taken to cut the education budget at a time when we should be putting more money into schools,” said Mr Ball.

He said the school had not followed the stipulations of the Employment Act and consulted with the union in a bid to avoid job losses.

And he insisted that a ‘new pact’ was required between unions, employers and Government to avoid job losses and labour disputes as Bermuda adapts to the new economic reality.

Mr Ball said preserving jobs should be the first priority.

“We have to minimize the loss of jobs. Where are these people going to go? Who is going to be responsible for them?”

The BPSU is hoping the school will compromise.

“We’re in negotiations. We are trying to save their jobs. These are young people with families.

“School is starting. We already know the problems with education.

“We have to do the best we can for the next generation. That is one area where we should be spending more money, not making cuts.”

Both CedarBridge and Berkeley are public schools. But they have autonomy when it comes to how their budgets are spent.

Berkeley released a statement on Wednesday morning confirming "it continues to actively consider cost cutting measures to achieve greater savings in accordance with its reduced operating budget for fiscal year 2011/12."

Chairman of the Board Craig Bridgewater said: "It is important to note that in accordance with our discussions with the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU) that a number of measures are being considered and that no final decisions have been made. Our primary objective is to ensure the delivery of the highest standard of education for our student body and we will not compromise or cut corners in this area."

Mr. Bridgewater continued: "I take this opportunity to express my disappointment with the fact that the BPSU saw fit to make the details of our private and confidential consultation public. Any discussion that might alter the working conditions of our staff is a sensitive matter which requires much deliberation and the actions of the BPSU at this time are unfortunate."

The Board of Governors is expected to make a final decision with respect to additional cost cutting measures prior to the beginning of the next school year.