Professors and professionals at the Université de Saint-Boniface are demanding fair working conditions from the university. The heart of the problem is defining what constitutes fair working conditions.
Comparable Institutions-Comparable Work
APPUSB members are not working in isolation from the rest of the job market. For a better understanding of the meaning of fair conditions, their work needs to be put in perspective with colleagues working in similar institutions.The overall workload of professors at USB is typical of that of their peers at a teaching-intensive university such as the University of Winnipeg (UofW). Professionals, on the other hand, have been historically compared to the employees of the DSFM (the French school division : Division scolaire franco-manitobaine). These two institutions were used for salary benchmarking purposes by the union and USB administration in the 2012-2016 negotiation rounds.
UofW and the DSFM represent the closest match with external educational institutions in Manitoba, although a few differences exist between USB and their counterparts. For instance, a regular annual teaching load corresponds to six courses at USB but to five courses at UofW. Similarly, course design is more demanding at the university than in schools where the curriculum is pre-established by the province.
However imperfect the comparison may be, it is necessary for an objective understanding of where APPUSB members stand with respect to their nearest counterparts in the provinces.
It is Getting Worse and Worse…
In 2015, APPUSB members were almost on par with their comparables: in other words, professor salary scales were matched (100%) to UofW’s and professional salaries were at 99% of DSFM salaries. By 2019 and 2020, a salary gap had started to grow: APPUSB member salaries were at 94% and 92% of UofW’s and DSFM’s, respectively.
It is noteworthy that the above-mentioned 2019-2020 salary scales are in line with the currently expired collective agreement which still governs APPUSB members.
The university’s meagre offers made in December 2022 would have widened the salary gap between APPUSB members and their established comparables. Had APPUSB accepted the university’s offer (6% over four years), USB professionals would be earning only 88% of DSFM salaries, and have incurred an additional 5% loss between 2020 and 2021.Since UofW and DSFM are currently in negotiations, it is difficult to accurately measure the salary gap between APPUSB members and their established counterparts today. The gap between faculty salary at USB and the University of Manitoba (UofM) however, has been steadily increasing : in 2015, the gap stood at 1%. It has grown to over 13 % over seven years (2022).
Each column represents salary earned at USB by APPUSB members, compared to their colleagues at UofM (blue) Uof W (red) and DSFM (yellow). Salary ratios amounted to between 94 and 99.6% in 2015, and have consistently decreased since.
A Broader Perspective
APPUSB members are seeking to bring salaries that are more competitive with comparable educational institutions in Winnipeg, namely UofW and DSFM. Proposals submitted by the APPUSB negotiating team are not even asking for parity with their comparables but merely aim at reducing the gap. Yet this discussion on the worsening of their working conditions since 2015 should not distract us from the issue at heart. The reason why the APPUSB members are rallying today goes far beyond a fight for fair working conditions, Current conditions are unsustainable and threatens the quality of French-language university education and the very future of USB.