Details on the UJC’s 31 layoffs

We’re slowly getting details from the UJC about its recent batch of 31 layoffs (part of an 18 percent budget cut — from $37 million this year to $30.3 in 2009-10). Here’s what we know from the organization itself and other sources:

  • The UJC Direct department, which since 2006 has run a toll-free hotline to answer questions about the federation system, was closed. Two staff members had been manning the line. I have heard that the hotline, run out of the UJC’s communications department, received 10 to 15 calls per week, but the UJC would not confirm the intake. UJC spokesman Joe Berkofsky said the hotline saw a 30 percent to 40 percent drop in calls, and “We just weren’t getting enough calls to justify it. We will go back to a decentralized answering system, where each department has a point person, and more Web- and e-mail-based information with more FAQs and more e-mail boxes.”
  • The UJC’s missions department, which six months ago was moved from New York to Israel, will be moved back to New York. The UJC would not confirm the number of positions that were eliminated with this move, but did confirm that the missions department would be absorbed in New York by the development department. The missions department was moved to Israel during a previous round of budget cuts in an effort to better work with service providers in Israel and abroad. That turned out to be a flawed plan, as the UJC realized its customers were the federations it serves. “We thought if it was in Israel, it would be closer to the customer there, but that didn’t work because the customer is here in North America,” Berkofsky said. The UJC will no longer provide travel services, but will basically provide consulting services to help federations find “best of breed” service providers overseas when they are planning missions for their donors. The UJC would not say how much was saved with this move, but it appears that some staff who were reassigned from missions to development during the move to Israel will now be reassigned back to missions.
    (I know. That’s a mouthful.)
  • There was a staff change in the “Network,” the department that oversees federation fund raising in dozens of “non-federated” communities — often smaller communities that do not have full service federations but have fund-raising outposts that give money to the UJC.
    According to Richard Wexler’s blog, the person who ran the Network division has been let go. The UJC would not confirm, saying only: “We are bringing in one of the senior people, a VP level person, who will be overseeing the Network area, with the idea to develop greater more strategic thinking in the area. There was some impact there, I can’t tell you how many were impacted there.”
  • The UJC’s Atlanta office will be closed and the employees will be asked to work from home.
  • According to a source, a number of administrative people in New York were let go.

There seems to be a lot of anger out there, as is evidenced by the comments on Wexler’s post announcing the layoffs, which include a lashing-out at the salaries of top UJC employees not laid off — insinuating that the layoffs are all coming from the bottom of the totem pole — and an accusation that women are being disproportionately let go.

Berkofsky denied that UJC is firing women disproportionately: “That is totally incorrect. Absolutely incorrect." Some 66 percent of the UJC’s employees are women, and if more women are being laid off than men, it is simply because they are more highly represented in the UJC’s staff, he said.

Berkofsky declined to offer more details, or to discuss the issue of where on the organizational ladder the layoffs are coming from.

“There were business decisions made over many months about what areas were underutilized and what was important. And [the cuts] matched closely to what our strategic goals are,” he said. “Over the last couple of years, there has been a real effort to match the budget and federation dues to make the services we provide to federations more focused, and to strengthen federations. We want to deliver more value.”

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