Profs on strike: A nice dilemma

You may or may not be surprised to know that at least a half dozen people have asked me to comment on the UNB strike.  I have resisted because a) I know a pile of profs and may not be entirely neutral on the subject and b) I see the point of both sides of the argument.

But the data would suggest there are complexities associated with being located in an economically challenged province.   From the National Household Survey we know that on average (or median), university professors/lecturers who work full time/full year earn less than their counterparts across the country.  The chart shows an 8 percent premium (on median incomes) and an 11 percent on average incomes.   These numbers are not particularly instructive as the union would have all this data parsed by tenure, discipline, etc. to show the most complete apples-to-apples comparison.

The second chart is a little more instructive as to the complexity of being a university prof in a weak economy.  On a median income basis, university profs in New Brunswick earn a 120% wage premium over everyone else.  On an average income basis a 91% premium.   Both of these are well above the Canadian average.  Adjusted for provincial income levels, university profs are doing better here – on average – than in Ontario, Alberta and BC.   Again, the union I assume will have all the micro-market data and be able to compare apples-to-apples far better than the data out of the NHS.  But it does shine a light on one of the complex aspects of this whole debate.


4 thoughts on “Profs on strike: A nice dilemma

  1. When you recruit nationally (or internationally) you will find those kinds of departures from median and average incomes in poorer parts of the country. No real way around it, IMHO. On the other hand:

    1) if we are recruiting in that way, we should be getting the commensurate performance. Are we?
    2) can we continue to pretend that we need to have all the programs we are currently offering, especially given that there is obviously some duplication in programs among the three Anglophone unis. Profs could be paid more if there were fewer of them.

    Sitting back and grousing abt prof wages is not especially helpful; nor is it very useful to allow the unis and staff to negotiate wages when perhaps a more pertinent issue is whether the whole system needs a re-org.

  2. I don’t see much sympathy on the streets for the profs, but there are two related problems. In the first place, what is the distinction between instructors and profs? From UNB’s data we know that over 100 profs earn around 150 grand a year. But who exactly is striking? Its downright insane to be offering a prof who earns 150 grand the 23% increase over four years they are demanding. But maybe new hires are getting screwed as badly as substitute teachers do in comparison to teacher’s salaries. So I think the numbers need to be broken down in a far different way. They make more than NFLD and Manitoba ‘so there’.

    I’m not sure the entire university system can be re organized, but no doubt those changes are coming. I”m currently taking a computer science course and an arts course, both for free, and both from Harvard University. Take a look sometime at the instructionals for the computer science course and compare it to how its taught at UNB-or most schools for that matter. And thats just the tip of the iceberg, you can easily get all the knowledge that you’d get from college for free on the internet. Some textbooks are harder to come by, but not impossible, and certainly all the material in them is easy to come by.

    But that’s another issue. The other biggie is the union complaint about just how many new bureaucrats UNB has hired at the same rate or even higher than professor’s salaries. Prof salaries are already out of whack, but new bureaucrats almost literally accomplish nothing. Unfortunately that issue is largely not being addressed.

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