The bargaining town hall held June 3, 2021 was well-attended by members. The focus was mainly on the Board’s proposal for salary, increments, and evaluation, in which substantive changes were proposed for both instructors and faculty members. Details of the May 31st negotiation session where the Board presented this proposal package are found here.
ULFA Chief Bargaining Spokesperson Locke Spencer opened with a territorial acknowledgement and a moment of silence in recognition of the recent discovery of the remains of 215 residential school children in the Kamloops residential school grounds.
Following opening remarks, an outline was provided on the current state of bargaining. This round of bargaining began on June 8, 2020.
Since the January 18, 2021 exchange of full proposal packages by the ULFA and Board negotiating teams, the teams have held eight negotiation meetings (February 8, February 22, March 8, March 22, April 8, April 22, May 20, and May 31).
In their opening positions, the two sides proposed changes to 41 articles or schedules. Of these
- One side or the other has presented at least an opening position for 36 of them;
- We have reached provisional agreement on 3 schedules;
- 16 of the 41 have been exchanged more than once (i.e. an opening plus at least one response).
Career Progress, Merit, and Increment Introduction
This report will present the discussion of the June 3rd town hall in two main parts: proposed changes for instructors, and proposed changes for faculty members. An overview of the current increment system for each category is provided by way of introduction.
Current Career Progress, Merit, and Increment system for Instructors (See CA 15.05, 15.06, 31.06, A)
Merit increments are currently awarded to instructors as follows.
- $2800 per instructor is contributed (exceptions listed below) by the institution to the instructor merit pool (See CA Sched. A). Each instructor rank has a fixed “salary cap,” and no instructor at that rank can have a salary higher than that cap.
- See CA A.01.3 for salary caps for instructor ranks.
- If an instructor is at the salary cap for their rank, the Board does not contribute anything to the instructor merit pool for that instructor.
- If an instructor is near the cap (i.e., their current salary plus $2800 is over the cap for their rank), a portion of the $2800 is added to the merit pool equal to the difference between the cap and their current salary.
- Regardless of how their position description describes the balance of their various duties, instructors are assigned a single overall performance rating on the following descending scale of merit: 2.0, 1.75, 1.5, 1.25, 1.0, 0.5, 0.
- The performance rating becomes the number of merit units the member will receive (i.e., an instructor can receive 2, 1.75, 1.5, 1.25, 1, 0.5, or 0 merit units).
- The value that a single merit unit is worth is determined by dividing the total merit pool value by the total number of merit units.
- The product of the merit unit value and the number of merit units are added to the June 30 salary and Cost of Living Adjustment (if any) to determine the corresponding July 1 salary.
Let’s look at a previous evaluation cycle as an example.
In the 2019-20 cycle there were 107 instructors who are subject to evaluation under Article 15.03, and $2800×107=$299,600 was added to the merit pool. Some of this group were close enough to the cap of their rank, so the actual merit pool total value was $299,600 – $57,884.52 = $241,715.48. For these 107 instructors, Table 1 provides the performance rating distribution assigned. The total number of merit units is 189.75. The merit unit value is determined by $241,715.48/189.75 = $1,273.86. Table 1 also lists the increment value for each possible performance score that an instructor could have received.
Table 1: Example Instructor merit unit distribution.
|Total Merit Units:||0||0.5||4||5||18||54.25||108|
Instructors near their salary cap (i.e., their current salary plus their earned merit score is greater than their cap) receive a merit increment that raises their salary to the current salary cap, even if that is less than the full increment value they would otherwise have earned. The scores for instructors who are at or near the cap, however, are included in the calculation of the value of a merit unit (the pool is divided by the total scores of all instructors, including these), and therefore have the effect of lowering the value of a merit unit and leaving some money in the pool. Instructors at the cap receive a one-time bonus payment based on their ranking from a residual merit pool defined in CA A.01.8 (which comes from money that is left in the pool for various reasons, including instructors at the cap).
Under ULFA’s opening position (not all of which has yet been presented), the Board would contribute to the merit pool for all instructors, including those at the cap. Salary caps would all be raised by 6%/year for 2 years (the amount of the cost of living plus comparator increase that ULFA has proposed). ULFA’s proposal to provide a route for promotion into a category of teaching professoriate for Instructor IIIs would provide a way for such members to be promoted into positions that are not subject to a salary cap. More information on the proposed teaching professoriate may be found here, here, and here.
Current Career Progress, Merit, and Increment system for Faculty Members and Librarians (See CA 2, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 31, A)
This constitutes a brief overview of how merit increments are currently awarded to faculty members and librarians. In this overview, “faculty members” refers broadly to faculty and librarian members.
- $2600 per faculty member is available as a career progress increment for faculty members who have not reached the maximum length of an “academic career” for their rank (See CA Article 2.02 and Schedule A)
- If a faculty member has reached the limit in years of an “academic career” for their rank, then their career progress increment has no monetary value.
- $625 per faculty member is contributed to a merit pool (unique to their faculty unit).
- A faculty member is assigned a performance rating in each of teaching, research, and service on a scale of descending merit: 2.0, 1.75, 1.5, 1.25, 1.0, 0.5, 0.
- The performance scores are weighted by the faculty member’s teaching/research/service allocation (typical is 40/40/20), and combined to determine an overall performance score. Since the overall performance score is a weighted sum of the individual performance scores, it could have almost any value between 0 and 2.
- An overall performance score that is at least 0.5 and less than 1.0 will result in half of a career progress increment being awarded (i.e., $1300).
- An overall performance score of 1.0 or greater will result in a full career progress increment being awarded (i.e., $2600).
- Members awarded full career progress increment may also be awarded a merit award as follows:
- A mean overall performance score is calculated for the faculty unit.
- Merit pool increments are awarded to those whose overall performance scores are equal to or greater than the mean overall performance score.
- One merit unit is awarded for performance scores equal to the mean, with additional merit units for every 0.1 units by which an individual performance score exceeds the mean.
- The value of a merit unit is determined by dividing the total merit pool value by the total number of merit units awarded within a faculty.
- The overall increment awarded is the total of the career progress increment and the merit award.
- The total increment is added to the June 30 salary and Cost of Living Adjustment (if any) to determine the corresponding July 1 salary.
Let’s look at a previous evaluation cycle as an example.
In Arts & Science in the 2017-18 cycle there were 188 faculty members evaluated for Career progress with 2 members receiving a score of 0 ($0), and 186 members receiving a score at or above of 1.0 ($2600). The mean overall performance score was 1.8. All A&S faculty members with a score (rounded to one decimal place) of 1.8 or greater were awarded 1 merit unit. Those at or above 1.9 received two merit units, and those at 2.0 received three merit units. There were 188 members eligible to access the merit pool, and $625×188=$117,500 was added to the A&S faculty merit pool. Of these 188 faculty members, Table 2 provides the merit award unit assignments based on the weighted overall performance score distribution assigned. The total number of merit units is 234. The merit unit value is determined by $117,500/234 = $502.14. Table 2 also lists the merit increment value for each possible number of merit units.
Table 2: Example Faculty merit score distribution.
|Total merit units:||0||41||76||117|
|Merit score value:||0||$502.14||$1004.27||$1506.41|
Board’s Proposed Evaluation System
The Board proposes a three state evaluation system with values of 0 (unsatisfactory), 1 (satisfactory), and 2 (meritorious). This three state system is to replace the current system that includes 7 states on the same scale: 0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, and 2.0 (with 0 being unsatisfactory, 1 being satisfactory, and 2 being meritorious). The rationale for this new system is that it provides for a simplified evaluation process. The application of this three state system within each of the instructor and faculty member groups will be described below.
Board’s Proposed system for Instructors
The proposed system has two significant differences for instructors: separate pools, and career progress allocation.
The Board proposes to change the instructor evaluation system from a single, institution-wide instructor merit pool to individual faculty merit pools for instructors. This is expected to reduce inter-faculty scoring bias as the same Dean provides the evaluation for all instructors within a given pool. Each pool will have smaller numbers, and thus may experience different and greater fluctuations in the merit values when compared to other instructor pools on campus.
The Board also proposes to change the instructor evaluation system by taking the current merit contribution and splitting this allocation equally between a career progress amount and a merit pool contribution (see Fig. 1). It is important to note that the Career Progress amount would go directly to the member when awarded, it would not be part of a fluctuating pool. The merit contribution would continue to be part of a pool, and under the Board proposal merit pool contributions would not be made for instructors at the salary cap for their rank (not changing current system in that respect), and a graduated merit pool contribution would be made for instructors near the salary cap for their rank.
Fig. 1. Current (left) and Board-proposed (right) instructor merit pool contributions.
Evaluation of Board’s Proposed Instructor System
We present a model to help with understanding how the two systems differ. Assuming a starting point 1/3rd up the Instructor-II rank, the merit values for 2020 (see Table 1) were applied to three test merit score cases of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0. The results over a 20 year period (assuming static evaluations and merit values) are shown in Fig. 2, with total 20-year gross earnings presented in Fig. 3. While some simplifying assumptions are employed in the data presented, the qualitative effect of the proposed change is that highly meritorious instructors would reach their salary cap sooner at the expense of lower ranked instructors progressing in salary more slowly.
Fig. 2. Current (left) and proposed (right) Instructor II salary progression for a simplified Instructor II example.
Fig. 3. 20-year earnings for the 4 instructor II model cases.
It is evident that the proposed system will cause greater variation in instructor salary over time.
Board’s Proposed system for Faculty members and Librarians
The Board’s proposed system involves a change to the scoring system as described above, a change to the ways in which the relative weights of the three performance categories impact increments, and a change to the allocation of funds between career progress and merit.
Performance Categories’ Impact on Increments
Currently members provide a weighting distribution between teaching, research, and service (e.g., nominally 40/40/20 for faculty members, 20/60/20 for research chairs, 20/40/40 for dept. chairs), and members are assigned 2.0, 1.75, 1.5, 1.25, 1.0, 0.5, or 0 in each of the performance categories. The scores and weights are used in determining the overall performance score. The Board’s proposed system continues to have these weights provided, but ignores them in the calculation of merit. Instead, it provides 1 merit unit for every category in which a faculty member scores a 2.0. Thus, individuals would receive 0, 1, 2, or 3 merit units as a result of their individual performance scores in teaching, research, and service.
Change to Career Progress vs. Merit Allocation
The Board’s proposed system takes the same per-member total ($2600 + $625 = $3225) and reallocates $1700 towards the revised career progress value and $1525 to the faculty merit pool. Fig. 4 illustrates the proposed change in Career progress / merit pool allocations for faculty members.
Fig. 4. Current (left) and Board-proposed (right) faculty member/librarian merit pool contributions.
Evaluation of Board-Proposed Faculty Member/Librarian System
We present a model to help with understanding how the two systems differ. Assuming a starting point of the floor of the associate professor rank, the merit values for the 2017/18 reporting period used above (reported in July 2019, see Table 2) were applied to three test merit score cases of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0. The comparison is simplified because there were 1, 2, or 3 units awarded in 2019. The 2020 evaluation had up to 4 merit units awarded, which does not compare to the proposed system in as straightforward a manner. The results over a 20 year period (assuming static evaluations and merit values) are shown in Fig. 5, with total 20-year gross earnings presented in Fig. 6. While some simplifying assumptions are employed in the data presented, the qualitative effect of the proposed change is that highly meritorious faculty members would see their salaries rise faster at the expense of lower ranked faculty who progress in salary more slowly.
Fig. 5. Current (left) and proposed (right) Faculty salary progression for a simplified Associate Professor example.
Fig. 6. 20-year earnings for the 4 Associate Professor model cases.
ULFA proposal on Promotion for Faculty Members
While the focus of this presentation is on the Board proposal for salary increments and evaluation, it is important to understand some relevant proposed changes to salary from the ULFA proposal package. One relevant proposal is that there should be a salary increment provided for faculty members at the time of promotion from assistant professor to associate professor, and again at the time of promotion from associate professor to full professor (likewise for librarian promotions). The rationale for this is that a substantial amount of work goes into the preparation and review of STP dossiers.A thorough peer-based assessment of members takes place at these landmarks, and this is a sensible point for financial recognition to take place. The ULFA proposal awards a faculty member or professional librarian double the salary increment for the two years following promotion. If ULFA’s proposal were agreed to, it would have the effect of rewarding merit, as early promotion would result in early application of these extra increments. This would result in significantly higher career earnings for these members, which could be further increased by cost of living or other percentage-based adjustments.
Throughout the Town Hall presentation, and following the prepared remarks, there were a variety of important topics and issues raised by members and discussed, both in the written chat session and through verbal communication. Some of the key themes are identified below, with some important aspects of the conversation being noted specifically.
Salary Roll-back / retroactivity
There was significant concern that the current Board proposal calls for a 4% roll-back effective retroactively to July 1st 2020. Neither side has yet presented Schedule A so this has not yet been discussed at the negotiating table, and we cannot presume to what extent the Board’s presentation will include an expectation that members pay back some of the salary they have already received, although this would be a literal interpretation of the Board’s written proposal.
Mental Health / Work-life Balance
Much discussion related to the fact that an overly competitive evaluation system has strong potential to erode positive working relations and damage the physical and mental health of members.
Equity / EDI
EDI-specific salary studies and associated corrective actions are an important part of a healthy workplace and evaluation system. Equity-deserving groups are more likely to be under-served by any salary increment system that does not have EDI considerations included in its constitution. Systems that rely on traditional understandings of merit, especially those that reward overwork, tend to disadvantage members who have greater caring, family, or cultural responsibilities outside of work.
Town Hall participants recognized that low salary floors, salary caps, and a lack of cost of living adjustments to salary have a detrimental effect on members’ ability to excel and on morale, especially under an increasing workload. These factors also introduce significant challenges to recruitment and retention to the institution.
Conclusion and Next Steps
There are a variety of clear points coming out of the town hall presentation and discussion:
- Strong support for individual instructor merit pools.
- Strong support for career progress for instructors.
- Recognition that the current merit/increment system is complex, time consuming, and potentially arbitrary.
- Recognition that the proposed increment system could amplify current inequities in evaluation of members.
- Recognition that a strong mandate is required before significant changes to our system should be agreed to.
Salary and other forms of compensation are top priorities in our current bargaining mandate. While many members are dissatisfied with the current merit system, some members like it, and in past ULFA surveys and discussions over the years, no significant consensus has emerged among members who dislike it, around how to change it. However, opinions are constantly evolving as members take new information and ideas into account, and we do not wish to base our position on understandings of members’ views that may be outdated. In that light, ULFA will be surveying its membership for a broader and more detailed understanding of membership preferences with respect to some of the career progress, merit, salary increments, and evaluation proposals that are currently on the negotiating table.