‘May 2016’

Talking to the Government about governance

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Talking to the Government about governance | Filed in May 2016, President's Message

– By Sandra Hoenle, Faculty Association President –

In my last newsletter article I outlined a number of governance concerns and I’m happy to report there may be some positive changes on the horizon. The Faculty Association has been active in raising our concerns with our new MLAs and provincial Ministers. Unlike in previous years, this new government has expressed its interest in our perspective, in that it is actively seeking our input into relevant issues.

As you may know, the Supreme Court recently ruled on the constitutional right to strike. In order to conform to this ruling, the provincial government consulted widely with groups who have been prevented or hampered from exercising that right. As a result, Bill 4, which recognizes that right for public sector employees, was introduced. The Ministers of Labour and Advanced Education recognized, however, that the situation for academic staff is much more complex and requires a review of the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) – the Act which determines the governance structure within the Post-Secondary sector. Unlike the typical employee relationship to the employer, academic staff occupy a different space within their institutions in their role as decision-makers regarding academic matters. The government has recognized that this complexity requires thoughtful consideration before changes are made, as hasty decisions could result in unintended negative consequences. To this end, the government is proposing a thorough review of the PSLA, including extensive consultation with Faculty Associations, Student Unions, Graduate Student Associations and Senior Administrators – all of the groups recognized, defined, and governed by the PSLA. Our hope is that a number of indeterminacies within the Act, which have tended to be interpreted with a corporate spin that inappropriately defaults to “management rights,” will be clarified in a way that recognizes and supports the unique function of collegial governance at the core of universities. This will hopefully also extend to structures and processes that require the transparency befitting a public institution that is not only funded publicly but also exists for the public good.

In addition to the PSLA review, the government is also reviewing the appointment process for all agencies, boards, and commissions and the skills required of members of such bodies – including the Boards of Governors of universities. We have expressed our concerns about the Board: primarily a lack of diversity in the backgrounds and skill sets of the current board members, who are predominantly corporate. This is not a criticism of individual Board members, who bring needed skills and knowledge to their roles, however the University is a public institution, not a profit-generating corporation. The Board therefore requires some voices from other perspectives, primarily from people who understand the nature of a teaching and research institution and also who bring a viewpoint from other segments of the community. As I write this, we have learned that Minister Schmidt has not accepted the request by the current Board Chair to reappoint three members, whose terms will expire soon. He explicitly notes in his letter that these members are encouraged to apply through the open recruitment process, rather than the internal process conducted by the Chair. The Minister has also been quoted in the media saying there are concerns about the lack of diversity on many boards – diversity of gender, age and ethnicity in particular. Minister Schmidt has also assured us that competencies and potential diverse contributions that could be made by applicants will be taken into consideration in vetting new members. We are hopeful this new process and attitude will bring some much needed change.

On another issue, we have also provided the government with a number of concerns regarding the Compensation Disclosure Regulation (the so-called ‘Sunshine List’). While there is no question that the government will include academic staff in their disclosure, we have pointed out to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, who is responsible for this regulation, the additional negative impact the disclosure of individual salaries has on the privacy of academic staff. For example, it would be possible by comparing salaries from year to year to determine what merit increase an individual receives (or doesn’t), clearly an issue of a loss of individual privacy. We suggested instead, a listing of cohorts of a number of academic staff receiving salaries within a particular range. The government is still working through the details of this regulation and we hope the Minister will be responsive to our concerns. The text of the letter I sent as part of the consultations on this topic can be found here.

Since the election of the new government we have been advocating for the interests of academic staff and the health of the university as a public institution. It has been a refreshing change that our input and perspectives have been invited and recognized as an important component for consideration in their deliberations.

Alberta Fires Appeal donation

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Alberta Fires Appeal donation | Filed in May 2016

The Alberta government has declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas. In response to this, the Faculty Association has donated $5,000 to the Canadian Red Cross’s Alberta Fires Appeal to provide relief to those affected by this crisis. The Association also encourages academic staff members to make their own individual donations.

Compensation Disclosure Regulation (Sunshine List)

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Compensation Disclosure Regulation (Sunshine List) | Filed in May 2016

Below is the text of the letter Association President, Sandra Hoenle, sent to the Alberta Government on March 2, 2016 in response to their consultations on the Compensation Disclosure Regulation (commonly known as the Sunshine List). We also encourage academic staff members to contact their MLA with any concerns about the Regulation.

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

Re:  Compensation Disclosure Regulation (Sunshine List)

On behalf of the Faculty Association of the University of Calgary, we would like to share our comments below related to the Compensation Disclosure Regulation. While our first comments relate to the regulation, I appreciate that some of our follow up comments may relate more to matters of the Act.  It is difficult to navigate the interface between the two.

It was disappointing that the Government chose not to consult with stakeholders before establishing the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act, as many of the problems are inherent in the Act.  We believe that the aims of the Act could have been achieved in ways that will be far less damaging than the result that will occur.  Such unintended consequences can occur when appropriate consultations do not happen.  We would strongly encourage the government to consult with stakeholders on such matters in the future.  Indeed, the one week’s notice we received on this consultation regarding regulations was extraordinarily short.

The primary concern regarding the regulations arises with the matter of severance.  In relation to members represented by the Faculty Association, severance primarily occurs as part of an agreement we make with the employer to resolve a conflict of some sort.  It is often a face-saving way of helping a person move on to another employment opportunity.  The difficulty we would have in seeing severance reported is that the idea of this being “face-saving” will be turned on its head.  Rather than resolving a conflict, it would create a new one since attention would be drawn to the person as having received a “package”.  This will likely lead to a change in the nature of such deals, to being a continuation of salary – that is, we will likely be forced to negotiate deals which provide for the departing member to get six months of salary rather than a lump sum payment, since this would not draw attention to their situation.  This may create further consequences, as it means the employer will be on the hook for benefits, and there may be problems with overlapping employment.  My fear is that rather than any of this, the disclosure of severance either as a lump sum or salary will lead the member to instead want the Faculty Association to proceed with the battle against the University Administration.  This will lead to increased costs to both the institution and the Faculty Association simply because the face-saving option is being removed from us.  Our belief is that the intent of the legislation was to show severance packages for senior executives, or where there were discretionary “gifts”.  Our recommendation is that severance not be disclosed in the situation where the matter is negotiated between a union (or Faculty Association) and the employer, as this is an inappropriate impediment to the conflict resolution process.  However, as that may not be possible under the current Act, a less palatable option would be to report any severance as salary rather than separately reporting severance, to allow some amount of face-saving in this situation rather than a glowing red flag of “severance”.

One of our difficulties with the way disclosure of salary will work is that it will allow individuals to compare increases between years and figure out what salary increments the individual will be given.  Unlike other unionized environments where salaries are on a grid, the Universities tend to use an assessed merit pay system.  This means that by comparing two years of salary information, an outsider can determine the relative assessment of the academic staff member’s performance.  This is a significant disclosure of personal information that was not anticipated in the Act.  In other words, the comparative assessment of all academic staff above the reporting threshold will now be fully disclosed.  Aside from disclosing personal information, this will also create internal competition as members who have competed internally for such merit increments will have access to the information about their colleagues. (The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act prohibits such disclosure, so presumably the increments for everyone below the threshold will continue to be held secret.)  This unequal playing field of disclosure/non-disclosure will also create conflicts within our merit assessment system.  Further, the U of A and U of C have a “zero increment” assessment which is a trigger for discipline.  So, by comparing two years of salary data, an outsider observer may also be able to determine which academic staff members have been disciplined.  Again, there would have been far better ways that the legislation could have met the interest of disclosing salary information without disclosing all assessments and discipline (for example, through the use of salary cohorts).  My fear is that this will needlessly create significant conflict and embarrassment.  If the reporting requirement listed compensation by $10,000 increments rather than to the dollar, this would go a long way to minimize the disclosure.  If such a reporting method is permitted by regulation, it may be of significant benefit to reduce unwanted conflicts and disclosure of sensitive personal information.

One of the reasons that the ‘sunshine list’ is of particular significance to University academic staff is that approximately half of our membership will be affected by this disclosure.  This is far more than most other organized workforces.  Thus the impact is not just on the elite few, but on the bulk of our membership.  (Salaries for ongoing academic staff at the University of Calgary range from $65,000 to over $300,000, with a median salary of approximately $123,000.)  Academic staff have higher than average incomes due to their significant education and the relatively late start to their careers.  Academics tend to get their first ‘permanent’ job in their late thirties or early forties.  Eighty-five percent of the ongoing academic staff at the University of Calgary are 40 or over.  What this points to is that the academic work force is a significantly different animal than other workforces.  The ‘sunshine list’ does not provide this context and arguably distorts the employment reality of academic staff.  In this context, the sunshine list could be seen as populist attack on professionals and anti-intellectual.  While that was not the intent, it is the impact.  Again, the interests of the legislature could have been fulfilled in better, more progressive, ways by focusing on the top 10% of the relevant workforce, rather than half of our membership.

Universities are interesting as public bodies, since unlike school boards, hospitals, and the like, only a portion of their income is derived from the provincial government.  In the case of the University of Calgary it is about 50% of the budget.  Many corporations receive significant funding from the public purse, but are not subjected to these same rules.  If the government is truly interested in creating a level playing field all organizations which receive government grants or receive tax breaks should be subject to the same standard of reporting.

I appreciate that not all of the items above will be relevant in the regulatory review.  For that reason, I have copied the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, as well as the Minister of Advance Education on this submission.  Where this submission goes beyond regulatory matters, I hope the Ministers will consider this a request for appropriate legislative change.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this submission.

Sincerely,

Dr. Sandra Hoenle
President

Independent Study Courses

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Independent Study Courses | Filed in May 2016

As per the Collective Agreement, there is an opportunity for ongoing academic staff in most undergraduate and graduate programs to offer one-on-one independent study courses, such as reading or research or thesis supervision courses. In a number of cases, no credit is given for such courses as part of the workload of the academic staff member, yet they are clearly part of the academic program offered by the Faculty. The Collective Agreement contains a letter of understanding (LOU) for these independent study courses. As per the Collective Agreement an independent study course can be deemed optional or mandatory. Whether the course is considered optional or mandatory will affect whether it is calculated as part of an academic staff member’s teaching load. A link to the full text of the “Letter of Understanding: Independent Study Courses” can be found below. Included in the LOU is more information on determining optional versus mandatory courses and how these courses are reported and counted.

Letter of Understanding: Independent Study Courses

A copy of the Collective Agreement can be found by clicking here.

Community Service Award 2016

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Community Service Award 2016 | Filed in May 2016

award_webThe Faculty Association would like to congratulate Dr. Patricia (Tish) Doyle-Baker from the Faculty of Kinesiology as the recipient of the Community Service Award for 2016. More information on Dr. Doyle-Baker’s inspiring work supporting and strengthening non-profit organizations and causes important in the community can be found here.

Pictured L-R: Sandra Hoenle, Association President and Tish Doyle-Baker, Community Service Award recipient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Promotion Review Committee membership

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Promotion Review Committee membership | Filed in Gazette, May 2016

The membership for the 2015 – 2016 Promotion Review Committee is as follows:

Dru Marshall (Chair) – Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Voting Members
Heather Addy – Faculty of Science/Biological Sciences
Keith Dobson – Faculty of Arts/Psychology
Allan Ingelson – Haskayne School of Business and Faculty of Law
Michael Kallos – Schulich School of Engineering/Chemical and Petroleum
Ebba Kurz – Cumming School of Medicine/Physiology and Pharmacology
Sharon Robertson – Werklund School of Education

Faculty Association Representatives (non-voting)
Sandra Hoenle – Faculty of Arts/Linguistics, Languages and Cultures
Justine Wheeler – Libraries and Cultural Resources

 

 

Financial Statements 2014 – 2015

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Financial Statements 2014 – 2015 | Filed in Gazette, May 2016

The Faculty Association’s audited financial statements were approved by the Board of Directors on February 9, 2016. The audit was executed as required by the Association’s by-laws. The auditors found that there was excellent cooperation between management and other personnel, and that the audit numbers support the assurance that the Association is in good financial shape.

The financial statements for the fiscal year 2014-2015 are available here. If you have any questions, please contact the Association office.

2016 census and the return of the long-form

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on 2016 census and the return of the long-form | Filed in May 2016

Canada’s census is being conducted in May 2016. This year also sees the return of the long-form census which was announced in fall 2015. Restoring the long-form census was advocated by academics and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), among others.

In May, census packages are delivered to households across Canada, providing residents with the information they need to complete their questionnaire online or on paper.

Completed questionnaires will provide valuable information that will be used by all levels of government to make decisions about your neighbourhood and community. Information obtained through the census is needed to plan services such as child care, schooling, family services, housing, public transportation and skills training for employment.

Every person, young and old, must be included in the 2016 Census.

For more information about the 2016 Census, visit www.census.gc.ca.