Our community responds

At 4:34 on Mon. Dec. 2, Peter McDougall, Associate V-P of Human Resources and Organizational Development, sent out a message to the university community addressed to “students and colleagues.” The response from our members has been swift. This post will contain a collection of those responses, the most recent first. Names and other identifying features will be redacted unless the member specifically indicates otherwise. Check back as this may turn into an extended conversation. Oh, and the usual disclaimer: the following opinions do not necessarily reflect the position of the AUNBT executive. Scroll to the bottom to add your own comment:

It is, I suppose, [administration’s] prerogative to discredit publicly the AUNBT and its members with tendentious or contested data. I wish, however, that [they] would give greater thought to the distress and alarm that this causes students, especially at such a delicate and stressful point in the term.Indeed, when students start talking about not enrolling in the second term I trust [administration will] agree that such e-missives are utterly damaging for the entire UNB community, just as they’ll do nothing to assist in the progress towards a negotiated settlement.

[FT AUNBT member]

Thank you very much for today’s messages responding to yesterday’s rallying call from Peter McDougall! (It certainly annoyed everyone I talked to yesterday afternoon! The contents and the timing – how stupid do they think we are?!)

[FT AUNBT member]

Some financial facts about take home pay during strike
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++With an average salary for faculty members at around $108,000 and an average deduction rate of 45%, the take home pay is roughly $59,700 per year or $2,300 every two weeks. Given that the strike pay is $100/day (7 days a week) or $1,400 every two weeks, the difference between the actual pay and the strike pay is $900 every two weeks.Although $900 for two weeks is a significant amount for all AUNBT members, one needs to put this into context as any salary increase today carries for the rest of one’s career.Take, for instance, the next three cases for the same ‘average employee’:* case a) the administration’s latest offer (Oct. 11: average of 1.45%/year),
* case b) catching up the average on our comparison group, and
* case c) AUNBT’s proposal.Considering only the difference in earnings over the next two years, in case a) the two-year earnings increase for the ‘average employee’ would be just over $1,745 after taxes (i.e., 1.45%/year * 2 years).  Conversely, in case b), the same employee would earn nearly $16,500 more after taxes between 2013 and 2015 (see FT Collective Bargaining Bulletin #6). Finally, the requested increase would mean ~$8,650 after taxes (over two years) for the ‘average employee’ which takes us part way to catch up with the average gross salary at the group of 14.Other miscellaneous points to consider:

– Strike pay is considered as a gift, i.e., it is not taxable.
– The average strike for academic employees is slightly over two weeks.
– The above data only considers the effect on the earnings over two years, the effect over the career would be much more significant.  This is more so the case now that the new pension rules require longer service from each member.
– For a fresh assistant prof. the difference between strike pay and actual pay is only one dollar a day while for many librarians and instructors the take home pay during the strike is higher than regular pay by about $10/day!
– Deduction rates can vary very significantly depending on family situation.  Rates range from 35% to about 50%.
– Those who cannot make ends meet because of the difference between the strike pay and the salary earning will be able to request loans from AUNBT.

[FT AUNBT member]

I am no labour law lawyer but what the admin did seems to be a case of bargaining in bad faith. I certainly hope the labour board is made aware of this and repercussions in addition to a solid strike vote are experienced.
[FT AUNBT member]

There is new dictionary that Mr. McDougall is creating. He states, “A faculty member hired at the assistant professor floor on July 1, 2000, has received greater salary progression increases than the G14.”
EVEN taking their numbers and graphs and misrepresentations as correct, the graph shows that a UNB assistant professor, even though they started at a higher level, over the years ended below the average. How this will mean higher progression beats me. Maybe they look at things upside down!!!
[FT AUNBT member]

I refused to read the e-mail sent by Peter McDougall as I consider this one-sided communication a shameful and unethical act.
If he wants to communicate his position he should give the union a chance to respond then send the e-mail to me and I will read both.
[Member of another UNB union]

This is what I call a dirty trick. Spreading disinformation the day before a vote. What the heck does “additional compensation faculty receive for stipends, extra payments, overload teaching, etc.” mean ??? Let us give an answer to this little game by giving our Bargaining Council a strong mandate!
[FT AUNBT member]

How can you talk about UNB attracting top talent and throw them under the bus in the same email? UNB administration should be ashamed to try and use the students to try and turn us against our professors. How can they poison the relationship of learning like this?
[Undergraduate student]

Well, if anyone was on the fence, this email should have enlightened them. It is obvious what direction Admin is taking and that they have no intention of bargaining in good faith, especially during the exam period. This delay until Jan 2 is just a stall tactic on their part. Even when the contract gets signed, things will never be the same at this campus. The current administrtion has seen to that.
[FT AUNBT member]

So, was that email a declaration of “PR war”? It seems to me that sending that out at this “delicate” time in the negotiations is an indication that they are planning a lock out. I can understand that they believe all that crap, but sending it out now is either a bad mistake, or a “let’s prepare the ground work for a lock out” move. I see the bit at the end about tuition as their way of scaring the shit out of students and turning  them against us.
[FT AUNBT member]

I read Mr. McDougall’s comments as being a last-ditch effort to derail the AUNBT vote outcome and to humiliate the AUNBT by encouraging half-truth gossip to spread among students and beyond.  It is shameful and very sad, indeed, that a UNB administrator would stoop to such a low level, but I think it shows clearly what we are up against on a daily basis.  My hope is that all of the membership will see through his ploy.
[FT AUNBT member]

The HR message claims that 1% increase in salaries results in a 650K additional expense. I can imagine how they got this number, but it’s rubbish. UNB is not a static system. There are retirement savings.
Let’s look at the department where I work. One retirement generates a salary saving of 150K, assuming it’s a full prof retiring at current ceiling. A 1% salary increase for people in the dept would cost UNB something like 20K in “additional salary expenses”, according to the logic of the HR message. However, using the 150K in salary savings generated by one retirement, everyone in the department could get a 1% raise and we could hire an assistant prof at 70K to replace the retirement, and we would still have 60K for grad students and postdocs, in the first year alone, at zero additional cost to UNB.
They can add PTR expenses to this if they wish: that’ll be less than 50K, which reduces the savings but does not incur any additional expenses to UNB even if the retirement is replaced. Oh, and by the way, we haven’t replaced retirements in a few years. What happened with those savings? They went “back to central”.
[FT AUNBT member]

All I know is that I didn’t pay thousands of dollars just to teach myself. Pay the profs, cut some fat in administration and stop trying to use the students as some kind of bargaining chip.
[Undergraduate student]

Disappointing email. It is revealing that McDougall’s note can really be seen as a reasonable strategy by UNB’s administration: “Your are our lifeblood, but let us discredit you publicly.”
If McDougall even had remote contact with the classroom he would understand that students are alarmed by the prospect of a strike or a lock-out.  His insensitive email only adds to student anxiety at a difficult point in the term.  On such grounds alone this email is disappointing.  Of course, the email is meant to discredit the so-called “lifeblood” of the university, and enough students will see through this as they bear down at the end of a long term.
And in the end, we know students will fondly remember their professors just as we warmly embrace and support their aspirations.  Students will never recall the name of a vulgar alarmist in UNB’s administration.
Hypocritical, yes; insensitive, absolutely; to be forgotten, most surely–but who among us can honestly say that they are surprised by this email?
[FT AUNBT member]

As a graduate student starting to look for academic jobs I find this e-mail very frustrating. Particularly the point about how “UNB attracts and retains top talent”. The ability to attract and retain top talent in the current academic job market does not reflect the excellent working conditions at a university. It reflects the fact that there are many excellent academics out there hoping to find a tenured position. This reflects a concerning lack of understanding about employees’ circumstances on the administration’s behalf.
In addition, can the VP not see the hypocrisy of using the university’s ability to recruit “top talents” as evidence that everything at the university is fine, while simultaneously shaming the faculty composed of these top talents for wanting fair compensation? I use the word shaming purposely, because that appears to be the intent of this mass e-mail.This action reflects the university’s problematic view of its employees. As I suspect most members of the union feel, I am hoping that there is not a strike. Strikes are exhausting and distracting for students and faculty alike.  But, given these types of messages from the administration of the university, I will fully support a strike if it needs to happen.
[Graduate student]

The whole email seems rather to obscure than to illuminate. What I found particularly weird/disturbing was the statement that “Outside of the collective agreement, UNB also looks at how its settlements compare internally with other bargaining units and in the Atlantic Canada region.  We also examine how we compare with changes in the Consumer Price Index.” This should not be misunderstood as a mere statement of fact.
It is as clear an indication as any that the administration does not believe in comparability, of comparing us to faculty in our comparison group. Neither is the email truly accounting for the list of factors that the administration would like to use in determining salaries. As I understand from previous reports, that list was much longer–and even further afield.   We need to fight for real comparability, one that accounts for the professional obligations of professors to compete and engage with faculty around the world in their research and to be teachers as outstanding as anywhere else; comparability that rests on an easily manipulated set of statistics that would have professors compared to those working in professions that are not actually much like that of being a university professor is worth next to nothing. The only concern here is to pay as little as possible, in a context where UNB can afford to pay; the email speaks of being responsible to NB taxpayers, but is it responsible to create an institution where in the future faculty may well have to leave, taking their research projects elsewhere, because they are being paid so much less at UNB?  New Brunswick students deserve better. While we have an obligation to be world class teachers and researchers, that obligation, needless to say, scarcely alters at all on the basis of consumer price index changes.
[FT AUNBT member]

Just like all other students and Faculty, I got this email from Dr. McDougall. Beyond my personal views on the issue, when I read this I thought it was a inappropriate that he had sent out a massive email to all students. To those students who do not reach out complete information, emailing like this could create bias or even function as brain-washing. It also presents unilateral information (e.g. both positions are not clearly laid out). I feel this was a misuse of the emailing lists.
I think those students who are interested in the process could request information from both parties (administration and AUNBT). If UNB admnistration is interested to expose their information and position, then they could use the Universtiy website so that interested individuals access it, instead of sending emails. Whatever they use to commmunicate should also contain transparent and complete. A discussion forum or something alike would be ideal, but massively emailing students with potentially incomplete and misleading information is not right.
Since Faculty cannot mass-mail students, this action by Dr. McDougall puts them in disadvantage to present their perspective.
[Graduate student]

The message from Mr McDougall is outright misleading.The word compensation is used not salary and one does not know what goes in there. Here is an example: It says that  “These numbers *exclude* additional compensation faculty receive for stipends, extra payments, overload teaching, etc” and reports an Associate Dean Business makes more than$ $200,000 when our salary ceiling is around $150,000. Does that mean the administration is routinely flouting the collective agreement (which they do of course) and making payments beyond the ceiling? This is just an example and I am sure they must have hired few extra  layers of administrators to produce this kind of mis -information.
[FT AUNBT member]

I love that some of the key charts were missing from this email from the administration. Since the Administration is so excited to show us charts, how about quantifying the “very low voluntary attrition”? How about quantifying the salaries of the administration and tracking the salary increases for said administrators? How about actually publishing the number, names, and salaries of the special/assistant/associate administrators hired in the last 5 years? How about showing us the growth of the Administration’s discretionary fund in the last 10 years? How about showing us the reduction in the number of stipends for teaching in the last 6 years? How about the percentages of faculty retiring vs faculty hired? The list could go on…
These UNB communications are insulting to AUNBT members!
[FT AUNBT member]

The email that we received this afternoon from Peter McDougall was both disappointing and insulting. Lately, I feel that the university has been sending inappropriate emails to students and they appear to be getting progressively worse.  Thanks to UNB’s flurry of emails I am aware of UNB’s stance but because of my contacts in the AUNBT I am also aware of all they have neglected and the numbers they are not so quick to share. As an undergraduate student I am uncomfortable with being drawn into the middle of the ongoing bargaining between the university and the faculty.  UNB, please stop trying to gather the support of the students through lies and improper statistics.
[Undergraduate student]

After this move, UNB faculty and AUNBT should not feel bound by the administration’s public promise that the fall semester will end without interruption. As soon as the “yes” strike vote is returned and you’re in a legal strike position, shut down the university.
[Retired Faculty member]

The recent email by Peter McDougall has sent a strong message to all of the students at UNB. We now know that the University is not above using us as bargaining chips.
[Undergraduate student]

You can’t get much further from students, education, faculty, and research than the head of HR (Peter McDougall), yet he has the audacity to start off by suggesting that he cares about faculty and students. If UNB was looking for someone of minimal heft with faculty and students to carry their message, then they certainly have succeeded here.
I hope many click through to the statistical-noise plots that Mr. McDougall has posted, which belie a shockingly poor methodology (compare to the statistical tameness of AUNBT’s tracking of salaries, which is grounded in reality). Following Mr. McDougall’s data, the G14 must be managed by a group of drunken administrators who routinely swing annual salaries up and down by something like minus 5 to plus 10%, because nothing short of that would average out so noisy.
[FT AUNBT member]

I joined UNB in Saint John because I was told I could make a difference here and this wouldn’t be the case at a larger institution.  Sure, I could have taken on a number of longer term contracts, built a CV (on a lighter teaching load and greater research support) and quite likely gone on to a bigger salary.
I bought into the UNB story.  I’ve tried to help the University and I think my peers can vouch for that.  I’ve worked hard for the province, because I am paid by taxpayers.  Corporate has thanked me very much for all my efforts, recognized virtually none of them, and asked me to give more. Our President requires comparability in pay, according to our communications department, but then Corporate doesn’t feel we need comparability in workload, research support, or salary.
I’m disheartened by their misguide-issives and disgusted by their tactics.  We don’t just need a strong strike vote, we need to get rid of these charlatans and sycophants at the top!
Want to see where they are going (http://slate.me/1bm05pB).
[FT AUNBT member]

The admin needs to realize that we students are not stupid and that we are capable of handling the truth.  We pay our tuition fees each term towards our quality education and we expect to receive one. We have amazing profs in campus who are not being treated fairly… As a result our educations will suffer.  Faculties are losing profs and not gaining them… Yet the admin keeps on growing….
I fully stand by my inspirational profs and the AUNBT. You have my support!
[Undergraduate student]

When will the administration stop treating the students as though they are stupid?
[Undergraduate student]

I agree with the comments about junior faculty. I am not yet tenured, I teach on overload, and I struggle to get momentum in my research. If something doesn’t give in the next couple of years I will need to look elsewhere for the career I was promised at UNB.
[FT AUNBT member]

Nice of admin. to help AUNBT get out the vote.
[FT AUNBT member]

Hearts and minds? It’s a bit late for that.
[FT AUNBT member]

Faculty may be the lifeblood of the university, but administrators are its parasites.
The charts presented do not reflect the serious dis-investment in programs and faculty that the various UNB administrations have been involved in the past 10 years.  It’s important to hit back with evidence of the 20% lag which we now find ourself in comparison with the G14.
What is more crucial is to emphasize the huge administration’s cost to the running of UNB.  However, I do not trust their numbers nor do I trust them.  Perhaps now is the time to question the validity of their data and their cooked books.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
[FT AUNBT member]

Well, with that email from Peter McDougall I see a lockout or a strike on the horizon. Why else would they send that out now?
[FT AUNBT member]

Interesting that they go on and on about faculty wages. I am an instructor and our salary grid is quite different. The same holds true for our colleagues in the libraries. It’s a bogus argument to say we are too highly paid and then only use the top earners as an example. All anyone has to do is look at our salary grid.
[FT AUNBT member]

[FT AUNBT member]

The new e-mail delivered by administration concerned me. It shows some things that might be misleading for the public.
For instance,
—“Of the 574 faculty members represented by AUNBT, 343 (about 60 per cent) of the group earn more than $100,000 in compensation.” How many of these people will be retiring and not being replaced? I for sure do not make that kind of money and I work my a– off .
—Numbers are in averages. If you have great disparities between the people that make a lot and the people that make less, then you end up with $108,000 average salary.
Why not target admin wages as a counter?
[FT AUNBT member]

Isn’t it bad faith bargaining to be doing this?
[FT AUNBT member]

If we are the “life blood” of the institution why did the Board of Governors just vote to lock us out on Jan. 2?
[FT AUNBT member]

Join the crowd!

Tags: ,

Categories: Bargaining news


  1. Comparability. Ability-to-pay. Reputation. « AUNBT - December 3, 2013

    […] was sent out this morning to all FT AUNBT members, though nothing beats your responses. […]

  2. Are you reading | A very presidential blog - December 2, 2013

    […] thoughtful, funny, angry comments we are getting over at the AUNBT website in response to an email Peter McDougall is surely regretting agreeing to send out late this […]