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Union calls for more collaboration in college merger

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union is asking for more transparency and collaboration in the merger process between Cumberland and Parkland Colleges. The colleges said plans are in place to engage further with staff and students.
Cumberland College Tisdale
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union wants to see more transparency and collaboration in the merger process between Cumberland College and Parkland College.

NORTHEAST — A union representing workers at Cumberland and Parkland College is asking for more transparency and collaboration as the two post-secondary institutions move forward with a merger.

“Since the merger decision was announced in January 2022, the [two colleges’ board of governors] has not been forthcoming with evidence to show a merger is in the best interests of the students, staff, businesses, residents and communities in the area,” said Tracey Sauer, President of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU), in a letter to stakeholders.

“We have been calling on the board to provide open and transparent evidence for their decision and a detailed plan for the newly merged college, including holding public consultations to respond to questions and concerns from stakeholders and the public.”

Alison Dubreuil, the interim president and CEO of both colleges, said that both colleges have a strong and respectful relationship with SGEU.

“We have communicated with them throughout the entire process and are committed to work with them. We have committed to no job losses and look forward to continuing a dialogue into the future.”

The two colleges plan to officially amalgamate effective July 1, 2023. Approval of the merger was officially received from the Government of Saskatchewan on Jan. 19.

They have been working together since 2019, when a coalition of the Parkland and Cumberland Colleges formed. Since then, they have shared a president/CEO and board of governors.

Dubreuil said that enrolment has gone down and she believes it is because of these competitive markets, the ability to take online learning, the demand for the labor markets is strong and it entices individuals to go right into the workforce. She added that she wants the collges. to be more effective advocate for rural and indigenous communities. She believes working together, building capacity for new programs will enhance the educational institution.

The president of the colleges said plans are in place to continue to engage with staff and students.

“We anticipate more meetings in the near future with this most recent announcement of the approval from the Government of Saskatchewan we anticipate meetings regarding programming, rebranding and discussions into the future. We are a large employer in our region and are proud of the contributions of our staff. They are passionate and committed to their students and we want them to have a voice at the table,” Dubreuil said. 

Currently Parkland and Cumberland College has approximately 270 employees. Parkland has campuses located in Yorkton, Melville, Fort Qu’Appelle, Esterhazy, Canora and Kamsack. Cumberland campuses are located in Tisdale, Nipawin, Melfort and Tisdale.

By July 1, 2023, a new name and brand for the colleges will have been decided upon and the newly named entity will seek to become a competitive option for Saskatchewan’s ever-changing students and workforce.

“With Saskatchewan’s strong economy we need to continue to provide a strong and diverse slate of educational programs. We are committed to our partnerships, our students and staff and our communities,” Dubreuil said.

SGEU said they continue to ensure that they are involved and are at the table to give their expertise on the future of the colleges moving forward.