Today the Faculty Association made a compensation proposal to the University covering the period July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. Our compensation proposal was delayed because the University only recently received its budget letter. The budget letter plays a crucial role in negotiations at UBC, both formally and substantively.
Formally, according to our Collective Agreement, negotiations cannot be concluded until the University has been officially notified of the operating grant allocated to it by the Province. Further, if negotiations between the parties on a new Collective Agreement have not been concluded within six weeks of the receipt of the notice, the matters still in dispute between the parties are submitted to binding arbitration (the six week deadline can be modified with the agreement of both parties).
Substantively, in determining the appropriate compensation for members of the bargaining unit, first consideration is given to the University’s ability to pay. The size of the government grant plays a very significant role in determining the university’s ability to pay. With that in mind, the Association has made a compensation proposal based on available information.
Salary Increase Needed
It is understood, by both faculty and administration, that faculty salaries at UBC need to keep pace with inflation. Faculty salaries also need to keep pace with salary settlements at other Canadian universities if UBC hopes to maintain academic quality through retaining and attracting Faculty Members, Librarians, and Program Directors of the highest caliber. As UBC put it in its “Admin Blog” in March, “every year, we pay professors, researchers and employees a bit more. That’s what every organization in the world does, otherwise talented people go elsewhere.”
Certainly there is no indication that inflation in Canada, and in Vancouver, will suddenly drop to zero for the next year. Forecasts from a number of sources place expected inflation in the 1.7% to 2.0% range. Nor is there any indication that a glut of qualified faculty is driving down faculty salaries in Canada. Most university settlements in Canada for the next year provide salary increases in the range of 2% to 4%. For example, according to data provided by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and other sources*, faculty at the University of Alberta will experience a 4.8% general increase in salary next year. At Queen’s it will be 3.2%, at York it will be 3.0%. In fact, of all the Associations for which we have data, only one has settled below 2%. (Because of a serious budget crisis at the university, the SFU Faculty Association settled for 0% in exchange for elimination of the University’s management right to impose temporary layoffs via “unpaid days.”) Obviously not all Faculty Associations have concluded negotiations covering next year, and not all future settlements will end up in the 2% to 4% range. Nonetheless, there is simply no indication that, overall, national salary settlements for faculty members will be insufficient to maintain pace with inflation.
UBC’s Ability to Pay
Determining the University’s ability to pay is challenging. The university is a large organization with a complex budget. However, it’s pretty clear that the university is not suffering from any decreases in revenue. According to the budget presented to the Board of Governors in April, revenues are expected to increase by 3.2% in Vancouver and 6.0% in the Okanagan. Domestic tuition rates will rise by 2% next year (to get a sense of how important that is, the share of educational costs borne by domestic undergraduates is about 26%). Taking into account higher tuition and increased enrollment, overall tuition revenue from both domestic and international students is projected, by UBC, to rise by 4.9% in Vancouver and over 25% in the Okanagan. UBC projects that its investment income will rise by 6% next year. Further, the grant from the provincial government is due to rise by 2.4% next year, according to the budget letter.
(Interestingly, in the budget presented to the Board of Governors the increase in the government grant was projected to be only 1.1% in Vancouver and 0% in the Okanagan, as opposed to the 2.4% overall it turned out to be. We do not know what accounts for this discrepancy.)
The Faculty Association Salary Proposal
The Faculty Association is proposing an across the board salary increase of 2% to keep pace with inflation and maintain real salaries at their current level.
Duty to Bargain in Good Faith
Both UBC and UBCFA have a duty to bargain in good faith. From our side that means we will carefully consider and evaluate the University’s response to our proposal and any budgetary and other evidence they present in support of their position. While it is hard to believe that the University cannot afford to pay any increase in salary, it is possible that the university truly cannot afford a salary rise that keeps pace with inflation. If so, we have yet to see any evidence to that effect, but that does not mean such evidence is not forthcoming. At the end of the day we will be guided by our honest and careful evaluation of expected inflation, the University’s ability to pay, and salary settlements at other Canadian universities. To rigidly hold a position in the face of contrary evidence presented by the other side is not bargaining in good faith. It is simply surface bargaining designed to lead to a dispute, not a settlement. That is not our intention.
* Compiled by Carl Schwarz for the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association.