Category: Ability to Pay

Decoding University Budget Matters

As members who have had the time annually to peruse the University’s audited financial statements will already know, UBC had another very profitable year in Fiscal 2015, with a budgetary surplus of $49 million, of which $31 million was the surplus on operations.

A Reasonable Balance

In the forthcoming arbitration a great deal of ink will be devoted in the Parties’ briefs to the meaning of “reasonable balance” as each party lays out its arguments for the salary increases it proposes. There is a reason for this. Normally in an interest arbitration an Arbitration Board would take into account the employer’s “ability to pay” an award. However with respect to the public sector this concept has proven tricky. As Arbitrator Getz put it in the 1989 UBCFA vs UBC award:

An External Analysis of the University’s Budget Model

In preparing for the 2012-2014 arbitration, the Faculty Association commissioned a report from Professors Cameron Morrill and Janet Morrill, accounting professors in the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. The Morrills have considerable experience in examining University budgets for Faculty Associations in Canada. While we did not use this report in the actual arbitration, it did help us to understand a variety of issues related to the University’s ability to pay appropriate salaries to faculty members.

Some of the highlights of their report include the following observations:

The University’s Destructive Budget Model

By far and away the largest single complaint we received from members while we prepared for bargaining concerned UBC’s budget model. Members are justifiably unhappy about a budget model in which the departments and Faculties are not treated as central to the core mission of the University. The comment “I am particularly concerned about the apparent over-allocation of University funds to administrative positions/costs, and a concomitant reduction of funds available to support scholarly activity and investment in hiring faculty” sums up the comments of many, many members.