The following is released on behalf of David Monod, WLUFA President
On 3 May 2019 Azim Essaji and I participated in consultations with the provincial government on a mandatory cap on salary increases for public sector employees. The government is organizing these consultations by area and our meeting involved unions in post-secondary education. The government has also asked WLUFA to respond to a series of questions on how they might best impose mandatory caps. The government justified this process by referencing the deficit and maintained that public sector salaries and wages are a major contributor to that deficit.
At the meeting, the faculty associations countered the government’s assertions by maintaining that universities, not the province, are our employers. We pointed out that the government is directly responsible, through its core funding, for only 35% of university revenues and that it therefore contributes a limited amount to our salaries and wages. We asked the facilitators of the meeting to define a public sector employee, something they were unable (or unwilling) to do. We also rejected the whole premise of the consultations, arguing that the government is responsible for the problems in the post-secondary sector because it makes the lowest per capita contribution to universities in the country. The problem isn’t high salaries and wages, it’s insufficient funding. It is hard to resist the conclusion that the province is now trying to pay for its 10% tuition cut, and the damage it caused to universities, by passing the cost on to the employees.
None of us present at the meeting believes the government will be deterred from legislating mandatory caps on salaries and wages. The meeting had the same Kafkaesque feel as our previous “consultation” on pensions. Frankly, the idea that what we experienced was a consultation is laughable. In view of this, and in full expectation that the legislation is already being drafted, WLUFA made a plea to have contract faculty and other precariously-employed and equity-seeking groups striving for decent wages excluded from any legislation. Legislating salary caps will institutionalize the inequities that currently exist, preventing those struggling for fairness from advancing further.
Some among you may feel that a cap on salary increases is a reasonable thing, given what other workers in the province are experiencing. But what is involved here is
a something more than a limit on pay raises. The Ford government is launching a direct attack on the collective bargaining process. The province has already shown that it is willing to drill down into collective agreements, by proposing to abrogate faculty rights in existing contracts (including ours) which allow members over 65 to draw salary and collect pensions. Many of you, I know, feel that faculty should not do this anyway; but whether right or wrong, the fact is that the province is overruling articles in negotiated collective agreements that were agreed to by both employer and employee.
For thirty years WLUFA has negotiated to provide decent wages and benefits with a university administration that has dealt with us in full knowledge of its financial situation. The government’s presumption is that the universities don’t know what they are doing, or how to bargain, and that the province has to save them from bullying and powerful unions. The proposed legislative intervention into collective bargaining is a direct attack on our rights. It offends our values as academics and professionals. It undermines the freedom of our self-governing institutions. We will fight it.
David Monod, President
Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association