What the Arbitrator Ruled, and Why

Categories: Arbitration, Bargaining Updates 2012, Salary Increases

On July 25, 2013, the Faculty Association and the University sent out a joint memorandum describing the details of the arbitration award for the years 2012 – 2014. We also linked to the actual award so that members could read it in its entirety. However many members have found the entire award a bit much to internalize and have asked us for a short, non-technical, explanation of the reasoning behind the salary settlement. Here it is.

The first thing Arbitrator Taylor had to adjudicate was the question of how large a salary award the University had the ability to pay, based on maintaining a “reasonable balance” between faculty salaries and other expenditures in the University’s general purpose operating funds. He found that the ratio of faculty salaries to total expenditures, over the seven years between 2006 and 2012, ranged from a low of 24.9% to a high of 28.8%.

The Association took the position that a pay rise of 5% per year would still maintain a reasonable balance and the University took the position that 2% per year was the absolute maximum increase that would maintain a reasonable balance. Arbitrator Taylor accepted neither position. He ruled that the Association’s proposal of general wage increases of 5% and 5% would result in ratios for 2013 and 2014 (forecast) of 28.9% and 31.1%, respectively.  In his view, for 2014, the Association’s proposal was outside the reasonable balance and therefore beyond the University’s ability to pay. On the other hand he also ruled that the University did have the ability to pay a salary increase in excess of 2% per year.

The second question on which Arbitrator Taylor had to rule was, within the fairly wide range of salary increases that the University did have the ability to pay, what salary award was most appropriate? In making that decision he primarily considered the need to keep pace with inflation and the general state of salaries at our comparator universities.

The Association had argued that higher wages were also needed for the purpose of recruitment and retention. However on that point Arbitrator Taylor said “I accept the University’s submissions that it does not have a general recruitment and retention problem.”

The University had argued that our progress through the ranks (CPI, Merit and PSA) and annual bonus represented something analogous to an annual pay increase. On this point Arbitrator Taylor said: “I also accept the Association’s submission that PTR rewards individuals’ career advancement; it is not a substitute for a general wage increase to keep pace with inflation and the general state of salaries elsewhere.”

In terms of the criteria on which his award was primarily based, inflation and the general state of salaries elsewhere, he ruled that a) monthly price inflation was fairly low, ranging from 1.25% to 2.33% between January 2011 and July 2012; b) monthly wage inflation was somewhat higher, ranging from 1.8% to 3.2% over the same period; and c) salaries at UBC have fallen somewhat behind its relative place in terms of academic quality. Taking these factors into account he ruled:
“The appropriate Award under Article 11.02 [of the Collective Agreement] is therefore annual increases of 2.5% and 2.5%.” and “I am satisfied this falls within the University’s ‘ability to pay’ as defined in that Article.”

The Association was not unhappy with this award even though we would have preferred a larger increase. While a higher awarded increase would still have remained within the University’s ability to pay it was not the Arbitrator’s duty to award the largest possible increase that the University can afford, but to make an award that is appropriate given criteria such as inflation and wages at comparable universities. We think he discharged his duties thoughtfully and impartially.