FAUW’s response to so-called “double dipping” legislation (updated)

– Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

“The Ford government is giving itself the power to force post-secondary institutions to reduce the pay of any employees who are also receiving a college or university pension.”

CBC News, April 15

I hope you are all excitedly preparing for a nice holiday weekend with family and/or friends. I am trying to, but this news story, “Ford government stopping university, college profs from ‘double-dipping,’” is getting in my way. Lines like “this includes the power to reduce pay to zero” make me pretty unhappy. Then some of the comments on the story make me just plain grumpy. (For those interested in the legal details, the story refers to the language in Bill 100, pages 116-17.)

This new (proposed) legislation is a serious escalation in the public relations battle the Ford government has decided to wage against Ontario faculty. Any guesses what the Ford government thinks about sabbaticals or tenure? With that in mind, we need to defend ourselves and our profession, and we need your help to do that. Here are four talking points you can use in conversations with your family and friends this weekend and beyond.

  1. At Waterloo, the provincial government pays only 1/3 of our salaries!
  2. Pensions are simply deferred compensation, and, roughly speaking, half of the pension we collect at Waterloo comes from our own contributions. 
  3. The average starting age of faculty at Waterloo is somewhere between 35-40 years old. Think about what that means in terms of the pension implications of such a late career start (not to mention the wait-time to start collecting a career salary).
  4. Any Canadian employee working at age 71 or older is forced by federal law to start taking their pension.

Forgive the approximations above—they are close enough to use for now. We will do a more precise analysis and develop further talking points over the next week or so. OCUFA is having a very close look at this from a legal perspective and we are awaiting their advice.

For those still interested in more talking points, I encourage you to read the comment from Andrea Harrington on the CBC story.

FAUW provided feedback to the Ministry prior to the release of the budget bill (now included at the end of this post). Our key point was that we do not think there is any problem to address at Waterloo. Only about 1.5% of UW faculty are 71 or older and collecting both a salary and their pension. If FAUW or UW administration thought there was a problem here at UW, we would try to work out an agreeable solution between us—without government intervention.

April 26, 2019 update

We understand that some of our members are concerned about faculty turnover and/or support incentivizing senior faculty to retire. To be clear, FAUW is not opposed, in principle, to Universities incentivizing retirement. What we are opposed to is the government being able to override your terms of employment and reduce your salary.

Note that the budget bill doesn’t actually set out any reductions to the compensation of faculty collecting pensions; nor does it provide a plan for faculty renewal. It gives the government the power to make those reductions through new regulations. It also gives the government the power to decide what to do with the money saved through those regulations, which means universities might not be free to use those funds to hire new, tenure-track faculty. Sandford Borins, professor of public management at the University of Toronto, has a blog post outlining the details.

If you are concerned about the budget bill, or the regulations that are likely to follow, I encourage you to talk to your Member of Provincial Parliament.

I’m happy to hear further ideas on this from members (btolson@uwaterloo.ca). We will be reaching out again shortly on this topic in order to figure out how best to support our senior colleagues directly impacted. Happy Easter.

Excerpts from our feedback to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

At the University of Waterloo (UW), there are very few active faculty over the age of 65. We understand that about 5% of faculty are over 65 years old and roughly 1% are 71 or older. So, any impact at UW of the practice described above is minor. FAUW does not see any issues on this front at UW.

We do not expect to see an increase in the number of retirement-age people simultaneously collecting pensions and salary. We suspect, without having confirmed this based on an actuarial analysis, that the post-secondary system is close to steady-state, having almost completely adjusted to the elimination of early retirement nearly 15 years ago. In other words, 10 years from now we would expect to still see roughly 1% of UW faculty working at age 71 or older. 

The majority of older faculty at UW are valuable, actively contributing members of the UW community and indeed of the broader scholarly community. The experience and expertise they bring to the institution and to the province are immense. Moreover, they help the University to function as well as it currently does. Several are very distinguished scholars who provide valuable consulting services to the community and industry. At least two of our senior faculty members are Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Others are current or recent senior administrators whose leadership has been vital to the flourishing of the institution. 

We see no reason to limit the number of courses taught by retired faculty members collecting a pension. They are also typically very experienced and committed instructors, and so it is possible that limits on their teaching could function, in some circumstances, to degrade the learning experience of students. 

If the government were to step in and mandate something akin to mandatory retirement, that would conflict with the terms of employment for all of our members. Our best advice to the ministry is to:

  • Avoid a provincial policy or mandate to prohibit faculty from simultaneously collecting salary and pension
  • Instead, let UW Administration and FAUW deal with the issue of older faculty members as needed locally. We do not require, nor want to see, a province-wide policy forcing UW to take actions that are not warranted here and may in fact function to degrade the research and teaching done at UW.
  • Should our advice above not be followed, any new provincial policy or mandate on retirement issues must absolutely be matched with a corresponding new provincial policy or mandate on tenure-track/full-time faculty renewal. Without such a corresponding faculty renewal policy/mandate, under tightening budgets universities will replace the tenured faculty that retire with even more sessional/part-time course instructors and this will degrade the quality of University education. Already, too few University courses are being taught by full-time/tenure-track/tenured faculty. We must reverse this trend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.