The University of Victoria’s full-time professors are heading to arbitration in the hope of raising salaries they say are among the lowest in Canada, despite the university’s high rankings in national and international surveys.
The issue has affected morale and prompted rumblings of unionization among the 850 members of the UVic Faculty Association in the wake of stalled contract talks, said association president Doug Baer. Most faculty associations across Canada have already unionized, he said.
“I’m guessing that opinion is divided, but we’re getting an increasing number of people who are saying they would like us to do this, and some of them are yelling at us ‘Why haven’t you been doing this?’ ”
The faculty contract expired July 1, 2012. Mediation did not budge the administration’s offer of two per cent in each of two years.
“We will still be at the bottom if we take two plus two,” Baer said. Faculty asked for two per cent plus an additional $1,750 per member in each of two years. He noted that many junior professors earn about $80,000 per year and face high housing costs and student loan repayments.
Baer, who moved from London, Ont., to Victoria in 2001, recalls his own “sticker shock” and said that was before housing prices doubled. “I would not be able to move today. ”
Most professors earning less than those at UVic are in low-cost provinces such as New Brunswick and Manitoba, say Statistics Canada figures compiled by the faculty association.
In 2011-12, the mean salary — a median that factors out extreme values — at UVic was about $123,500 for full professors, $100,600 for associate professors and $81,300 for assistant professors.
The Canada-wide mean for 20 other research-intensive universities was $142,000 for full professors, $112,780 for associate professors and $80,880 for assistant professors, with the overall mean just above $100,000.
Arbitration may not be scheduled until June or later, Baer said, noting it is a step not taken since 1996. (The arbitration does not include 800 instructors who teach part-time in continuing education and music performance.)
An update by the university administration on Jan. 18 detailed the pay issue going to arbitration, though the framework for non-monetary issues has been extended for two years.
In the update, Kim Hart, associate vice-president of faculty relations, said that on the final day of mediation, the faculty association “presented a ‘take it or leave it’ package” including a demand for $3.9 million more on career progress increments — salary adjustments awarded for satisfactory career progression — during the first two years. There would be an ongoing annual cost of $2.6 million after that — “well outside of the university’s ability to pay,” she added.
A faculty bargaining bulletin said the administration’s “take it or leave it” interpretation was wrong, reflecting “either a gross misunderstanding or a deliberate misrepresentation of what happened during the mediation. … At no time did we indicate that we would stop negotiations if they produced a counter-offer which came short of our proposed settlement.”
The university would not comment further because the issue is going to arbitration, a spokeswoman said.
The faculty association says on its website that it recognizes public institutions face financial pressures but to “describe UVic as unable to pay a settlement that would prevent it from being the lowest-paying university of its kind in Canada … is a stretch at best.”
According to bulletins posted on the faculty association website, salaries for administration executives are increasing at more than twice the rate for faculty.
The faculty association also noted the university has run surpluses in the past several years, “which the administration was pleased to tell the Board of Governors was $20.3 million in 2011-12 alone.”
Note: Information in this story has been corrected from a previous version
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