Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On representation, and faculty salary discussions

If you're a member of the UVic Faculty Association, and you have even a passing interest in salary issues, you're going to want to check in with your elected representatives both to Senate and to the Board of Governors.

Some background, first.

The University of Victoria sees itself among a cohort of 21 comparator universities, on the matters of research, library holdings, and other things, including salaries for FA members. There are some slight variations depending on what category you're looking at, but it's abundantly clear that salaries for FA members are very nearly the lowest among the entire cohort. Statistics Canada says so; dig through their full annual report, if you don't believe me.

Librarians aren't right at the bottom, but they're low. Faculty salaries, though, are 20th out of 21, ahead of only the University of New Brunswick, a school half the size of UVic whose faculty have bargained for 3.5% salary increases for both 2012/13 and 2013/14.

In the spring of 2012, less than a year ago, the UVic FA surveyed all its members about priorities for the ongoing round of bargaining. Around 50% of members responded, and the results of that survey are summarized briefly here. On the salary question:
  • 56% of respondents said that the FA should "bargain aggressively to achieve something close to the Canadian average university salary";
  • 32% said that the FA should "bargain hard to improve the relative salary position of UVic Faculty Association members";
  • 11% said that the FA "should seek improvements, but should not push too hard for salary increases"; and
  • 1% said that the FA "should accept any reasonable salary proposal the university administration feels it is able to provide."
When we asked members to choose where the FA negotiating team should focus its energies, 77% ranked a scale increase the highest priority, with 11% each preferring CPI and merit increments.

At Senate last week, which by the way is an open meeting, so anyone is free to attend the open portions of sessions, one elected faculty member asked whether it made sense in the current budgetary climate to halt the payment of merit increments altogether. Another elected faculty member asked how to go about starting a conversation about salary cuts; the university's president advised that this idea should be raised with the FA President.

Let me reiterate: two faculty members elected to Senate spoke there last week in favour of reducing the salaries of UVic FA members, not just compared to other institutions but in absolute terms. Do these comments represent your views?

I'll post again soon about the university's finances, but let me leave you with a few points.

First, of course it's true that no public institution has a blank chequebook. The BC government has announced a 1.5% cut to UVic's operating grant for the 2013/14 fiscal year, so there's genuine pressure on the university's budget. However, the administration told Senate last week that this grant covers only 56% of the university's budget. Somehow this has been used to justify 4% cuts to the budgets of academic departments. Do you trust them?

Second, this institution has consistently run "surprise" surpluses, sometimes significant ones. Between March 31, 2008, and March 31, 2012, UVic's financial officers projected a cumulative deficit of $6.7 million dollars. Instead, the audited financial statements show that across this period, the university in fact ran a cumulative surplus of $86.8 million dollars. That's an average surplus of over $17 million. (Bear in mind that a 1% increase to FA salaries would cost the university about $1 million.) How do you feel about the coming 4% cut now?

And what would you like to hear your elected representatives say, next time the issue of FA salaries comes up at Senate or the Board of Governors?


  1. It's simply treason. Given that the Senate session was public, do we have the names of the faculty members who spoke up to ask such pandering shitty questions?

  2. Yes, but I didn't want this blog to be the venue for singling them out.

    They weren't from Humanities, though. If our reps were in attendance, you could ask your reps (Jamie Dopp and Laura Parisi), but I'm not sure if they were there. In any case, I do think it's extremely important that the elected representatives know the minds of their constituents, so it might be worth checking in with them anyway.

  3. Yikes, this is a bit of an eye opener. Support Staff are getting the same 4% story too. We've already seen layoffs. Makes me question the legitimacy of their position.

  4. I was at the meeting in another capacity. I had no idea that the member that raised the possibility of suspending merit increments was a faculty member supposedly representing our interests. That is just shocking.
    This should be a matter of public record in terms of the minutes available at the next Senate meeting. Let's ask our representatives for clarification of their views, at least. It would be worth letting the faculty members they are representing know what their representatives' views were at Senate.

  5. It is shocking, isn't it? They need to have an understanding of the big picture, so they can't nakedly represent only faculty interests, but they're there to speak and listen specifically on our behalf AS WELL AS on behalf of the entire university community. I'm quite concerned about these comments possibly having come from an incomplete understanding.

  6. Posts like these always make me sad. Why can't educators receive the benefits, recognition, and salaries they deserve? Part of the problem is a PR issue - the public does not value/recognize what we do (education is important but not what we do - never understand how that works but it is what it is). And of course there is also the guilt (at least here in America) that we are doing what we love and are passionate about and somehow that should translate into money?

    I would like to know how administrative salaries were going to be cut. How come those jobs and raises never seem to be on the table?

  7. At UVic, salaries for upper administrators are pegged to the average salary of the same positions at 13 other institutions. Salaries for faculty and librarians are NOT so pegged, and in fact are roughly 10% below that average, so compared to their peers, administrators are more highly paid than are faculty and librarians. Substantially so, obviously.

    Plus we have twice as many associate vice-presidents now than we had five years ago.

    Thanks for your note -- glad to hear from Kentucky!

  8. The first time I read this, I don't think the surplus part sank in because I was so outraged that elected faculty members brought up pay cuts. Rereading it, though, has me even more outraged. Like Deanna, I want to know if administrative salaries are on the table. Why are their salaries usually safe? Why are the services they provide deemed more valuable (as measured by salary) than the education - which is supposedly why students attend university - provided by faculty members?

  9. Administrative salaries are apparently not on the table. They're a relatively small proportion of the university's budget, of course, and even a substantial percentage cut would have a very small impact on the university budget.

    Symbolism matters, though.

    It's more important to think about how many administrators there are. There are different kinds of them, of course; I think it's really great to have more counselling staff, for example, but that's not the same thing as doubling the number of Associate Vice-Presidents, each of which needs a budget and staff. A 1% salary bump for all faculty and librarians equals about $1M; it doesn't take much change in the Admin building to account for that.

  10. My post via my phone never posted. Darn. Laura Parisi is on leave and wasn't at the Senate meeting. I was at this Senate meeting and was shocked to hear of a suggestion that regular faculty mi's were part of the budget problem.

    I am not 100% sure if the person who first asked the question was supportive of no mi's, but really wanted to hear from Turpin if it was true that the mi's (and not getting them for a year) would make a difference. This was brought up due to this member hearing this argument from CUPE and PEA colleagues.


  11. I am outraged by these facts. I still don't understand how the VP finance kept her job after all of our financial and SIN data were stolen last year. If the admin have their salaries pegged to comparable universities we should too. We need to start thinking about withdrawing our services because clearly we are not being taken seriously.

  12. In our 2012 survey of faculty members, the Faculty Association heard from an awful lot of people that they wanted to unionize if bargaining didn't go well. The stats are broken out and discussed on pp.2-3 here, but 36% of respondents want to unionize right now. A further 38% would prefer to stay with an association, but would vote for unionization if important goals weren't met; 16% more were currently opposed unionization but could imagine circumstances under which they'd support unionization.

    Important goals haven't been met, at least not yet. We're seeing some of the circumstances under which hey'd support unionization.

    If you're thinking this way, you should start talking it up and should come to association meetings. We'd love to hear from you, and it'll be important to have grassroots activity.

    1. The link, by the way, seems invisible in my reply, but it's http://uvicfa.ca/PDF%20sources/2012BargainingBulletin6.pdf

  13. So it looks as if negotiations have failed and we are moving toward arbitration. At what point legally can we vote on unionization--dos anyone know?

  14. You may want to contact the association executive; the VP, Jason Price, is leading an ad hoc committee looking at bargaining options, including certification. He may have more information, and always wants to chat with interested parties.

    Email addresses for the executive are online at http://uvicfa.ca/pages/about/index.html

  15. By the way, do you know where I could find out which the comparator universities are? I would be very interested to know what UVic considered to be its cohort.

    1. I'll write a quick post listing the universities that UVic sees as its comparators, so stay tuned!

    2. Here's the list of comparators, with average salaries and a brief discussion: http://notstrategic.blogspot.ca/2013/01/uvic-and-its-comparators.html

    3. Thank you so much! That's a very interesting comparison, I must say.