While all universities in BC have seen their budgets erode, the salaries of those in charge have increased. In addition, there has been a general expansion of managers and directors at SFU, while front-line teaching and support staff have seen their numbers decrease and their wages stagnate.
TSSU realizes post secondary education in BC is under attack by BC Liberal budget shortfalls, making wage increases seem less possible. The inevitability of this apparently unavoidable difficulty would be more believable if the administration themselves had not received increases well above inflation. SFU is an institute of higher education and must place teaching at the highest priority, yet SFU continues to decrease the portion of the budget being spent on front-line teaching.
Upper administration is involved with bargaining to the extent they define the parameters within which their bargaining committee operates. But the job of keeping costs down has been handed to Human Resources (HR). It is clear that the same austerity that has been applied to the teaching and clerical support staff at SFU has not been applied to HR. Instead, the HR department budget has increased by 55% since 2006.
A competent HR department is also able to control their costs by finding creative solutions to disputes with its employee groups. SFU’s HR has been completely unable to come to mutually agreeable settlements over the last decade. Instead, SFU spends hundreds of thousands per year on its external HR lawyer to fight cases in court and arbitration. Many of these cases could have been resolved at no or minimal cost to SFU, had they been willing to compromise.
It is not clear the employer understands that its employees are living on the edge, nor is it clear that they have taken the time to cost out the financial reality we face. It is up to us to make sure they address this situation and account for it in bargaining. It is time for our university to engage with our realities.