On September 26, I addressed the Board of Governors’ Board Human Resources and Compensation Committee (BHRCC) regarding AASUA’s high expectations for our upcoming round of bargaining this Winter 2024. Here are the key points I touched on:
Salary wins at comparator universities
Trends in the public sector and broader economy bode well for the kind of gains we can understandably expect in our next contract. Our colleagues at the University of British Columbia recently negotiated a 14.5% across-the-board salary increase over three years. Similarly, faculty at the University of Toronto were awarded in an arbitration an 8% across-the-board salary increase retroactive to July 2022. Both these universities are among our principal comparators in Canada.
Average faculty salaries at the University of Alberta are no longer competitive with any U15 university in Ontario or BC. We are at the bottom of the pack. Academic staff reasonably expect compensation commensurate with the university’s strategic goal of becoming a top-three research university in Canada. One cannot reasonably expect to sustainably remain a National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup contender by paying Western Hockey League (WHL) salaries.
I strongly urged the BHRCC and more broadly the Board to devise a reasonable strategic budgetary plan to achieve competitive academic compensation. We previously achieved this goal in 2010-15 when our average faculty salaries were commensurate with our standing among the best teaching and research-intensive universities in Canada.
About 50% of all courses at the U of A are taught by contract teaching staff. I shared with the Board our view that relying on precariously employed teaching staff works against maintaining a high-quality learning environment and experience for our students. Reducing precarious teaching employment means that we should work toward introducing increased employment stability and career status appointments for ATS staff.
Concerns with the re-direction of resources away from teaching and research
I shared that many AASUA members have noticed what seems to be a very dramatic increase in the number of Management and Professional Staff (MAPS) positions that are being advertised by the Employer. We worry that this trend signifies a re-direction of budgetary resources away from front-line teaching and research toward administrative/management functions. This is particularly troubling given that the U of A already allocates a smaller fraction of its operating budget to academic salaries than all other U15 universities in Canada.
AASUA is committed to having a respectful and realistic conversation with the Employer about these matters. I told the Board it would be a strategic error to underestimate the organizational capacity and the resolve of AASUA members to secure a fair and appropriate Collective Agreement, one that is commensurate with the U of A’s national academic standing achieved in no small measure by the work of academic staff.