Saturday, April 21, 2012

Job cuts in science

From Alyssa:
. . . last week, the Government of Canada announced that thousands of public service jobs will be cut. This includes a10% budget cut at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).* Their budget is about $300 million (paltry compared to NASA's budget of about $20 billion - clearly not scaled by population), so cutting 10% is pretty huge. So, apparently the decision was made to completely abolish the CSA Space Awareness & Learning program - the program that funds 100% of my salary.
We have one more year on our grant. We're hoping that they'll make good on all their current grants and contracts - but looking at our contract with the CSA, it clearly states that they are entitled to change/cancel grants if the federal budget changes.
So, here's where I start preparing for any number of possibilities, from best- to worst-case scenario:
1. The last year of our grant comes through, and we have a year to come up with other funding sources.
2. The last year of our grant doesn't come through, but we find another source of funding. Depending on the source, this could be a short- or long-term solution, and could potentially mean a pay cut.
3. The last year of our grant doesn't come through, and we can't find another source of funding. I am out of a job. We have to pull Evan out of daycare. We can live on DH's salary alone if we cut back slightly on our spending, but we would not be able to do anything else. I have to find another job.
This is a really good (and actually Canadian) example of how austerity economics cause trouble during a recession.  Right now, unemployment rates are high.  This makes it a bad time to decide to cut programs.  In good times, the elimination of a government program would lead people to retool themselves for the public sector.  In a recession, it merely increases the overall level of hardship without people being easily able to find new employment.

What I found most interesting about this situation is that the person in question was funded on short-term rotating grant funding.  This is not the sort of high-security and extensive benefits type of work that is at the center of the public debate.  Instead, it is a PhD level educated person who is being funded entirely through a competitive mechanism.  So it is hard to imagine that the person in question isn't working very hard (I know I did under this sort of funding).

Perhaps now is not the ideal moment to reconsider precisely which government workers need to be re-purposed.  Maybe we could wait for the glut among the unemployed to pass?

No comments:

Post a Comment