The University of Alaska has laid off all human resources staff statewide, as its leaders work to restructure HR services and cut costs amid proposed budget reductions in Juneau.

Word of the layoffs emerged in an “HR Transition” project overview posted Monday. According to the overview, current human resources staff members at UA and its campuses will be eligible to apply for new roles at the university starting May 13; applications will be due May 28, with successful candidates notified June 4. The layoffs become effective on Sept. 14, with hires in revised positions starting the next day.

Robbie Graham, UA’s associate vice president for public affairs, said Tuesday that all 48 HR employees throughout the system received layoff notices Monday, with only three contract employees unaffected. The staff was notified during an in-person meeting with with HR leadership, Graham said.

It was too soon to determine how many HR employees the system would have after the reorganization or how much money the move would save, Graham said, until the new positions are posted.

“The one area where there are efficiencies is at the director level,” Graham said. “Currently there are seven directors and that will drop to four or five, so there will be two or three director positions that will be eventually eliminated.”

In a Monday letter to employees, UA President Jim Johnsen said the changes amounted to a “complete redesign” of human resources rather than a merger.

“Instead of maintaining three separate campus organizations and a Statewide HR office, the university will now have a single human resources office that will coordinate high-quality services throughout the UA system,” Johnsen wrote.

According to Johnsen’s letter, the redesigned HR system will focus on five areas: talent acquisition, employee transitions and benefits, labor and employee engagement, organizational development, and operations.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s austerity budget includes a proposed $134 million cut to the UA system, which Johnsen and other executives say would cost an estimated 1,300 employees their jobs and force some UA campuses to close. The proposal has prompted a meeting by UA’s Board of Regents, as well as a visit to Juneau by UA students.

The changes were approved by Johnsen in response to the proposed cuts after being presented within UA’s human resources organization, according to Graham.

“This particular restructuring was presented to President Johnsen by our chief HR officer, Keli McGee,” Graham said. “She really strives to make all our HR offices as contemporary as possible and, if you will, as modern as possible.”

An outline for the project, which lists its initial planning as beginning April 1, calls for it to decrease the university’s HR budget and involve “no increase in headcount number of HR staff.” 

A number of HR positions are currently unfilled and set to be effectively reduced through attrition, Graham said. She emphasized that every employee who received a layoff notice is eligible to reapply for the new positions next week, however, and encouraged them to do so.

“Some of them may elect to return, some of them may elect to do something else,” Graham said. “But we have a very talented HR staff, and so the hope is that we will retain many of them.”

The university has posted a benefits guide for affected employees, as well as lists of frequently asked questions for the overall HR redesign and how to apply for the revised positions.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify when HR staff was notified of the layoffs.

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