Part 2: Top Administrators At Queen’s Should Lead By Example

July 17th 2011

In February, we wrote that if top administrators at Queen’s “expect to lead, they should try to lead by example” (click on the following link to access that article:  Six months later, little has changed.  In fact, things have gotten worse.

Queen’s is in the midst of labour negotiations with several labour groups. (The amount of unionized employment at Queen’s is on the rise—most likely responses to the University’s careless corporatization.)  A few of these negotiations look to be heading toward full-blown labour disruptions in the near future.  Administrators argue “there is not enough money” and “it’s time to get the financial books in order.”  To do that, they insist, “Employees must lower their modest wage and pension expectations and accept the new economic reality.” But whose “economic reality”?

While few would disagree the university is facing financial challenges, top administrators at Queen’s appear to have avoided any fiscal belt-tightening.  In fact, data released by the Ontario Ministry of Finance this spring, indicates there has been no fiscal belt tightening by Queen’s top administrators—only belt loosening.  In 2010, the top 29 administrators at Queen’s collectively earned over $4.8 million, which was slightly up from the previous year.

The University’s Principal and several Vice-Principals were the highest earners in 2010.  These top 8 administrators collectively earned over $1.8 million in compensation, accounting for nearly 40% of the $4.8 million earned by the top 29 administrators overall.  Comparatively, the collective compensation  of the top 8 administrators at Queen’s is equivalent to the compensation earned by 415 Teaching Assistants or 250 Teaching Fellows. So why are our classes getting larger and workloads increasing without increased compensation?

Principal Woolf earned a whole $187,357 more than he earned in 2009, and surpassed the record (by $25,105) set by his predecessor, Karen Hitchcok, who earned $359,001 in 2008.  Compared to TAs and TFs at Queen’s, in 2010, Principal Woolf earned over 50 times more than the average TF and over 85 times more than the average TA.

Indeed, the fiscal belt-tightening exercise seems to have missed top administrators at Queen’s. Employee groups at the other end of the spectrum have been much less fortunate. Principal Woolf has recently outlined his plans to ensure  larger fiscal gains for top administrators at the expense of those who need it most.  In a letter to the Board of Trustees, leaked to employee groups in late June, Principal Woolf candidly notes he was instrumental in hand selecting a labour relations team “capable of effective strategy and negotiation to restrain the increases to our compensation bill and effect the needed changes to the pension plan.”  Those “needed changes to the pension plan” include both downloading risk and dramatically increasing the cost to pension-plan holders.

The wages earned by Queen’s employees and pension contributions earned by Queen’s staff and faculty constitute a vital part of their employment relationship, and they deserve to be fairly compensated. Downloading risk and increasing the price of a pension plan challenge not only current staff and faculty, but future staff and faculty (both unionized and non-unionized employee groups). If you’re a graduate student striving for a tenured-track faculty position, then current pension-plan changes affect your future pension plan—regardless of if you work at Queen’s, or at another University in Ontario or Canada.

Moreover, in the same letter, Woolf also warns that much of the belt-tightening has yet to come:

“As I have previously signaled to the Finance and HR committees of the Board, the fall of 2011/winter 2012 could prove to be a time of major labour disruption at the university [….]  I appreciate the Board’s understanding that these disruptions, should they occur, will be unpleasant and potentially reputational-damaging in the short term, but they may be a necessary step in order to achieve success in salary restraint and pension reform.”

Woolf’s statements underline his goal of ensuring the continued, unabated growth of the compensation earned by Queen’s top administrators, and the continued widening of the wage disparity between Queen’s top and lowest earners.    To consider the significant degradation of working conditions at Queen’s “unpleasant and potentially reputational-damaging in the short term” is not only a misrepresentation of the short-term costs, but also a gross misrepresentation of the long-term costs for Queen’s employees and, indeed, Queen’s reputation.

Where is the Queen’s that prides itself on good labour relations and practices? Principal Woolf’s letter suggests he is steering Queen’s in a damaging direction.  If this is leadership, it is time for a new Principal at Queen’s.  Enjoying large increases in personal compensation while calling for fiscal constraint is, simply put, fundamentally bad leadership.  Moreover, hand-selecting a labour relations team for the expressed purpose of suppressing employee compensation is underhanded and distasteful.  Surely, Queen’s deserves better leadership than this.

More to come….

S and M

For a PDF of this article please click here: PSAC901_TopAdmin Part2

For more information on compensation at Queen’s University please visit the Ontario Ministry of Finance website at

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