In a recent post, I discussed the Ontario government’s request for several universities to discontinue contract negotiations with their faculty, as well as the rumours of potential renegotiation of current contracts. Without a doubt, these developments are a sign of things to come for Ontario colleges, which are, after all, more under the direct control of the provincial government than universities.
However, in that post, I did neglect the fact that Ontario’s college administrators have already been subjected to the wage freeze that the government is seeking for faculty. Technically, this is a freeze not of individual salaries, but of the salary figures associated with the highest salary step level — administrators’ salaries will increase as they continue to gain new steps, until they reach the maximum step for which they are eligible.
I expect that a freeze of faculty salaries would look similar, and fundamentally, I see a certain fairness – and perhaps even some long-term benefits – to tying faculty salary structures to those in place for college administrators.
And who knows? Perhaps college professors would even support freezing their highest salary step for two years, if they would also become eligible to receive the other components of administrators’ salary structures (i.e., merit bonuses – even for work that is considered merely adequate, salary bonuses for added responsibilities or for the acquisition of increased credentials, performance incentive bonuses for individuals who are already at their highest salary step, and the ability to achieve the highest salary step within 5-7 years of employment).
Although the compensation guidelines for college administrators are no longer freely available online, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the 2009 compensation guidelines, since those structures appear to have been fixed in place by Bill 16 until 2012, including the ability to exceed the maximum salary step, through Exceptional Performance Initiative Bonuses.
Such is, at least, my reading of the Backgrounder and FAQ provided for administrators by their representative organization, the Ontario College Administrative Staff Association. [I invite anybody to correct my reading of the document if necessary, although I encourage you to do so quickly, since OCASA documents have a history of disappearing from the web soon after I link to them.]
These documents go on to note with dismay that the highest salary steps for all administrative positions have been frozen until 2012 (as the Ontario government appears to be encouraging universities to do to their faculty as well).
Perhaps contrary to expectation, I share OCASA’s dismay at the salary freeze for managers. While I do think that the managers’ salary structures would benefit from some revision (including, say, the merit bonuses of up to 2% assigned for managers whose work qualifies as “Satisfactory/Needs Improvement”), I do feel that administrators are necessary for the functioning of Ontario’s Colleges, and that their work is challenging and worthy of appropriate remuneration.
If I have a concern regarding the ranks of administrators in Ontario’s colleges it concerns the swelling of their per-student numbers in relation to the shrinking numbers of full-time college faculty, per student. [As a reminder, Figure 6 on this document from Colleges Ontario demonstrates that, while there are 18% more full-time college students since 1993-4, there are 13% more full-time adminstrators but 13% fewer full-time faculty]
And, although I don’t think that salary increases for administrators should be automatic or disproportionate, I don’t think that any employee (public or private) should be legally prevented from at least trying to negotiate a raise in salary.
Let me repeat that: I think that legislating an across-the-board pay freeze for all college administrators is inappropriate.
And I say that out of a sense of collegiality, given our common role as public servants, and our mutual role in the education of Ontario’s college students.
But at the same time, I can’t ignore my suspicions that my sense of collegial support isn’t necessarily reciprocated, when one considers the fact that no single individual represented by OCASA ever publicly opposed the imposition of Terms and Conditions upon Ontario college faculty. Nor do I hold much confidence that OCASA’s members would return the support by publicly objecting to any proposed salary freeze for college faculty in the future.
But the greatest threat to my confidence that administrators and professors share a common purpose comes from OCASA President’s own justification of the significance of college administrators. Noting with dismay the fact that the Ontario government didn’t consult them prior to the wage freeze, the president asserts OCASA’s importance at the bargaining table, by claiming:
College administrators are an important partner in delivering the Ontario government’s priorities for higher education.
Ah yes. I see. Well, I suppose that if you understand your own role as implementing the will of the government of the day, then you would indeed feel betrayed when that government arbitrarily limited your compensation for “delivering” their priorities.
Personally, though, since “the Ontario government’s priorities for higher education” include perpetuating the system’s chronic underfunding, I’d rather side with those individuals – whether they be faculty, support staff, administrators, or their representative associations – who are more committed to responding to our students’ needs, and those of their prospective employers.
And today, I think that responding to our students’ needs necessitates the bravery to publicize the fact that Ontario’s postsecondary system is deeply underfunded at the per-student level, and that the quality of education is clearly suffering as a consequence.
And maybe — just maybe — the willingness to announce that unpalatable truth constitutes the difference between being a public servant and a political one.