Progress Through the Ranks (PTR)

Categories: Bargaining Updates 2014, Career Advancement, Salary

While the parties have agreed on many issues there are still a number of issues in still in dispute. On some of these issues the parties are likely to engage in further discussion that might lead to resolution, others will have to be decided by an Arbitrator. This is the ninth in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed and those that are still in dispute, and the first dealing with matters still in dispute.

Salary increases to individual members fall into two categories: General Wage Increases (GWI), and Progress Through the Ranks (PTR). GWIs are intended to protect members against inflation and maintain salary comparability with faculty at other universities of comparable academic quality and size. PTR is intended to reward individuals’ career advancement. The provisions of Progress Through the Ranks are contained in Part 2, Sections 2.02 through 2.05 of the Collective Agreement.

PTR ensures that members of the bargaining unit receive salary adjustments to recognize the increased contribution to the University over time that comes from years of experience and career progress. Thus, PTR is distinct from any general increases for inflationary purposes.

Our PTR system (sometimes called the Career Advancement Plan) is similar to that at many other universities. The value of the PTR “pool” is determined as 2.5% of the total salary of eligible members (1.25% for Career Progress Increments, 0.75% for Merit, and 0.5% for PSA). While not the highest in Canada, the percentage value, at 2.5%, is pretty typical.

We are trying to solve three main problems with our PTR proposals. First, the existing language pertaining to the PTR plan contains specific dates for the distribution of this money to faculty members. The 2012-2014 Collective Agreement specifies that the 2.5% be allocated on July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013. Normally what would happen is that the 2014-2016 Collective Agreement would specify new dates: July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015. However since negotiations to renew the Collective Agreement weren’t completed by July 1, 2014 those payments have been delayed. This happens every bargaining round and is always a source of considerable irritation by the members. We have proposed, again, to replace the specific dates with the phrase “July 1 of each year” in which case the PTR increases could be paid out even after the Agreement expires and negotiations are still ongoing. At almost every other comparator university in Canada, and in every other bargaining unit at UBC, increments are paid annually on a specific date, notwithstanding the fact that the Collective Agreement has expired. Real mischief is done to our members by the current state of affairs. Since UBC withholds the PTR increases until the end of bargaining (and the several months afterwards it takes payroll to reprogram the system) implicit interest on salaries (and actual interest on pensions) is being denied to members (it doesn’t disappear, UBC keeps the interest for itself).

UBC has remained consistently resistant to accepting our proposal, even though it would simplify things both for the University and for the members. It is hard to understand UBC’s resistance to this very sensible proposal (unless it’s just about them keeping the interest). To date the University has made no suggestion to us that it is willing to pay out PTR in advance of the completion of arbitration. If they wish to pay out the PTR we will certainly facilitate it, as we have in the past. However the University’s current position does mean that the earliest you will see the July 2014 increases is likely to be in Spring of 2016, which further supports speculation about the interest.

Our second problem has to do, not with the 2.5% overall pool of PTR nor the division into 1.25% for Career Progress Increments, 0.75% for Merit, and 0.5% for PSA (neither party has proposed any changes to this). It has to do with the way the actual dollar value of a CPI increment (and thus of a Merit unit) is calculated. Currently the university calculates the size of the CPI pool, then estimates how many CPI units are to be awarded, divides the former by the latter, and derives the value of an individual CPI unit. Consequently the values of CPI units are partly determined by how many increments are due in any given year, and this is subject to significant random variation. As a result the value of a CPI unit, rather than rising smoothly in concert with the GWI, rises erratically. For example between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the value of a CPI unit rose by 3.2%, while GWI was 2.45% but between 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 the value of a CPI unit rose by almost 8% while GWI was 0%. This produces some salary compression, and some random variations in career earnings. For example, an Assistant Professor hired in 2009 would have received, in CPI alone, 20.8% more during his or her first two years than somebody hired just four years previously would have earned in CPI in his or her first two years. These differentials obviously compound over time. Our proposal is to have the CPI value rise with inflation rather than be determined residually. This makes good sense, and we worked out a way to ensure that the size of the total CPI pool would not be affected, so there is no cost implication to the University. The University rejected this proposal.

Our third proposal is to allow merit to be awarded in ½ unit amounts. Currently it can only be awarded in 1, 1½, 2, 2½, and 3 unit amounts. This will be particularly helpful for members in cross-appointments and also provides more flexibility when members are equally meritorious, but the merit pool is not large enough to reward all meritorious members.

In the 2012 round of bargaining, we made essentially the same proposals with respect to the dates, the CPI value, and the ½ merit unit, and failing agreement, took the proposals to Arbitration. The university argued that none of our proposals should be awarded, and the Arbitrator agreed. Obviously we intend to redouble our efforts to convince the Arbitrator of the value of our proposals this time.

It may be possible for the parties to reach agreement on these proposals before Arbitration begins. A number of proposals, counter proposals and counter-counter proposals were exchanged on this matter in an attempt to reach an agreement, but as yet no agreement has been reached, and our discussions at the table are without prejudice to the parties’ positions at Arbitration.