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UNB faculty’s demand unreasonable

UNB faculty's demand unreasonable
UNB faculty members are requesting upwards of a 20 per cent pay hike. (Photo by Karsten Saunders via The Brunswickan)
written by Ian Froese
January 24, 2014 12:05 pm
UNB faculty members are requesting upwards of a 20 per cent pay hike. (Photo by Karsten Saunders via The Brunswickan)

UNB faculty members are requesting upwards of a 20 per cent pay hike. (Photo by Karsten Saunders via The Brunswickan)

Dalhousie students are not immune to faculty strikes. Four of them since 1988 is a testament to this, including the surprise last day deal that prevented a walkout in 2012.

We have some experience.

That’s why it’s curious to examine the faculty strike at the University of New Brunswick—the first in the institution’s history. As of mid-week, the second week of the walkout, the two sides have not met at the bargaining table. There’s a chance, of course, that an agreement has been reached by now, but it doesn’t look promising.

These tense battles between administration and faculty are always a shame because it’s the students who miss out; their education held hostage as bigger players argue over millions of dollars.

The central argument to this strike is wage demands—what else? Faculty wants a salary more comparable to peers at similar-sized universities in other areas of Canada.

Fine. In principle, it’s a fair request.

According to most recent figures (unfortunately, that’s from 2010-11), UNB professors average $102,144, below the Canadian university average of $112,578.

The UNB administration is offering to get them within range, a 9.5 per cent wage increase over four years.

The faculty’s request before the strike began? A staggering 23.47 per cent hike over the same time period, including 5.6 per cent in the first year alone.

The union says their demand will put their members in line with compatriot universities, but the faculty’s request is ludicrous. Wage parity is an admirable goal, but, frankly, other universities are not in New Brunswick, whose shaky economy recently produced an annual deficit now over half a billion dollars.

The professors want to be adequately compensated, they say, so the very best faculty can teach at what should be one of Canada’s premier universities.

To become one of the country’s finest—it’s a remark stolen from any good post-secondary administrator’s playbook.

Dal is as guilty as anybody of dreaming too big. We expanded at a reckless pace, ballooning from 10,000 to 18,000 students in under 20 years. We took tuition from many pockets. We didn’t care much for facility upkeep. Fast forward to today where we’re in the problematic state of trying to grow modestly, while fixing decrepit, at capacity infrastructure with a low provincial grant.

This is a reminder that all universities should live within their means.

At UNB, it means the faculty union needs to reconsider their argument. An over 20 per cent pay hike is not reasonable. Not at a publicly funded university in a province struggling economically. Not when it would rank faculty salaries in the top 10 in the country, above more prestigious institutes who outrank UNB in academic and research feats.

At Dalhousie, it means accepting that you’re at a competitive disadvantage when provincial funding has steadily lowered and will likely continue. Don’t make striving to be the best your primary goal. Rising tuition drastically or cutting too many programs to make budget room is not worth it.

Hopefully soon, UNB students will return to the classroom. It will happen after UNB’s professors acknowledge that, at this time, in this economic climate, they are not among the country’s best universities, and shouldn’t be compensated as such.

It’s a lesson for everyone, including Dal’s administration.

10 comments on “UNB faculty’s demand unreasonable

  1. someonecommentingonthings on

    “Hopefully soon, UNB students will return to the classroom. It will
    happen after UNB’s professors acknowledge that, at this time, in this
    economic climate, they are not among the country’s best universities,
    and shouldn’t be compensated as such.” – this is more than a little disingenuous, don’t you think? This article seems to miss the entire point: the admin has the cash and has undermined the core mission of the university – teaching and research. And in terms of ‘best university’ – got an undergrad there, went to ‘better’ universities in this country and across the pond, and trust me, UNB is churning out better prepared undergrads than many of the ‘top schools’ in this country and elsewhere. Why? Because in the early 1990s it was able to retain top notch faculty who wanted to live in a place where they could raise their kids, do world-class research, and teach. So by the time I went through, programs were rolling in a way you clearly don’t think possible for a ‘have not’ province. Seriously defeatist this piece, and misjudged in terms of what prioritization and means actually mean. The logical extension of what you’re arguing is that it’s OK for admin to replace faculty at the rate UNB has seen in the past decade; that it’s OK for admin to hive off cash from programs and replacement of tenure track lines, thereby destabilizing academic and research programs; that it’s OK because we’re ‘just in the maritimes and not a top school’. Where are you from? Ontario? What means of assessment are you using for a ‘top university’? Apparently it’s OK to sell out on everything, including education and intellectual development, cause you know, that should go West too, right? Shameful.

    Reply
    • current UNB-SJ student on

      ^As a current UNB-SJ student, I agree with this 100%
      this is a case of being greedy, albeit from both sides, but UNBT (the faculty) are more willing to compromise on lower offers. where as the administration held firm until the last minute in which they significantly lowered their offer. They are not willing to negotiate instead they use propaganda and the students degrees as pawns and fear tactics. its a shame really.

      Reply
  2. shaunbartone on

    UNB part-time faculty (CAE) get paid more than Dalhousie part-time (Sessional) faculty. In fact, every university in NB pays their part-time faculty more than DAL does, and Halifax is a much more expensive city to live in.

    DAL (CUPE 3912) $4565 per 3-credit course

    $5238 after 8 3-credit courses

    $5583 after 20 3-credit courses

    CAE Stipends & Benefits at NB Public Universities

    UNB 2012-13 $5478 (2014) up to $5588 (by 2016)

    St Thomas 2012-13 $5419 $5997 +7%2

    base stipend w/ max seniority pension benefit with seniority

    Mount Allison 2012-13 $5809 $6332 +7.5%1

    Moncton at Moncton3 2012-13 $4875 $5175 +9%4

    with PhD $5500 $5800

    Moncton at Moncton5 2013-end $5000 $5300 +9%

    with PhD $5750 $6050

    Reply
    • unbstudent on

      Except the UNB strike has nothing to do with part time faculty. They aren’t part of the AUNBT. What’s your point here?

      Reply
      • shaunbartone on

        Actually. AUNBT represents both bargaining units, CAE’s (part-time) and full-time faculty. Only the full-time faculty is on strike, but the CAE’s have been locked out of the courses they teach by the University. My point here is that though the faculty situation at UNB is bad, the part-time faculty position at Dalhousie far worse. It’s a strike-prone situation. And now that Mount Allison has gone on strike, it’s ever more likely that Dalhousie’s CUPE 3912, the part-time faculty union, will also go on strike. The CUPE 3912 contract has been dead since August 2012. Negotiations have been going on for 18 months and we’ve gotten nowhere.

        Reply
  3. Rod Hill on

    An article that ignores the facts and can’t do some basic arithmetic. If UNB admin is offering 9.5% *over 4 years* when inflation will total about 8%, then that’s about 0.5% per year after inflation. How is that suppose to deal with a 10%+ wage gap, when salaries elsewhere will likely rise by a bit more than inflation? The gap will remain.

    Suppose you accept the 10% (it’s worse as I note below, but never mind for now) and add say 2.5% per year to follow the market. Over 4 years that’s about 10 + (4×2.5) = 20%.

    The gap in ‘average salary’ is distorted by the top-heavy UNB faculty. Due to little replacement of retirees, only 9% of faculty were assistant profs in 2010/11 compared with 20% in the comparison group of 14 unis that appears in UNB’s collective agreement. The salary gap for assistant profs at UNB is about $18,000/year. Average salaries for every rank are way below any in the 14 unis in the comparison group.

    Finally, the article leaves out any facts about UNB’s finances. The provincial fiscal situation is bad, but UNB’s is not. It’s been running surpluses of revenues above operating costs that would allow it to pay competitive salaries — but guess what? The administrators have ‘other priorities’.

    Reply
  4. José Silva on

    The author could have done a bit of research to find out that the way things are going UNB will soon become a college, with few faculty members and a fantastic administrative infrastructure. In the future, if the current trend continues, there will be more VPs, assistant VPs, associate VPs, assistant-associate VPs … then full-time faculty.

    Reply
  5. Alex on

    “This is a reminder that all universities should live within their means.”

    Wow what a great argument! UNB has accumulated an 80+ million dollar surplus in revenues over expenditures during the past 4 years. That means there is lots of “means” to improve faculty salaries, hire promising young academics, and reduce student financial burden. Quick Ian call UNB President Eddy Campbell and tell him your great idea!

    Reply

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