Executive pay increases irks SAIT faculty

The Weal ― News“It’s obscene. It’s past insulting. “

Those were the words used by Doug Spurgeon, president of the SAIT academic faculty association (SAFA) when discussing pay raises to SAIT’s three vice-presidents and outgoing president Irene Lewis that were included in the 2011-2012 SAIT annual report.

Lewis’ salary rose nine per cent, from $224,000 to $245,000. SAIT’s three vice-presidents received a pay raise of 26 per cent, going from $182,000 to $230,000. A $58,000 pay-for-performance bonus was also awarded to each VP.

The reason behind the change is to remain competitive with other post-secondary institutions, explained SAIT public relations specialist Melanie Simmons.

“We value our employees and we work closely to remain competitive with other Alberta institutions,” she said.

Simmons said an independent survey was conducted that determined the VPs salaries were under market value. The pay packages were approved by SAIT’s Board of Governors.

But where Spurgeon cries foul is that these increases occurred during the same year that SAFA and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) went into arbitration with SAIT. SAIT explained at the time that they could not deliver a cost-of-living adjustment to SAFA because the school’s surpluses had diminished.

There was no cost of living pay put in place, but instead “steps” were added to the contracts, meaning that one’s pay would increase every year granted the school season went according to plan.

“The same year that we went into arbitration they complained that they didn’t have any money, they took a 26 per cent increase for VPs as well as the bonuses,” said Spurgeon.

On top of the nine per cent increase, Lewis will also receive a one-time-only combined performance and retirement allowance of $346,000. Lewis will vacate her position as president when Dr. David Ross takes over the role of president in March.

Spurgeon is concerned that the increases may cause an “extreme divide” amongst faculty and administration; however he is optimistic that when the provincial budget is announced March 7, spending may be “reigned in” by government.

When asked what sort of tone this maneuver communicates to SAIT students, Spurgeon said, “This starts to send a message that ‘we [the VPs and president] are up here; we can do basically whatever we want. And when your tuitions get increased…oh well. That’s just part of doing business.’”

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