Let’s make sure we’re all clear on this point, because it’s very important, and possibly trumps everything else that will get brought up in this discussion:
Raising the salaries of the AMS employees—particularly executives—so soon after passing a major fee referendum which was sold around the need for more program funding is about the worst thing you could possibly do for optics. It looks absolutely terrible. It makes you look like liars.
Now, I don’t need anyone to leave a comment here explaining the situation to me, because I understand it.
- Christy Clark decided to raise the minimum wage when she took office on March 14. Nobody knew that was coming.
- Raising the minimum wage affects a large number of the employees of the AMS who are hired at entry-level positions.
- If we raise the “bottom tier” salaries, it makes sense to review the salaries of all employees, because otherwise you may get a situation where people in more senior positions are getting paid the same rate as the people they are supposed to be supervising and/or exercising decision-making power over. As with most organizations, the AMS operates on the principle of compensating people according roughly to the amount of responsibility and seniority invested in their position.
- There is a sense of urgency about this, because the first wage increase comes into effect May 1 and we also need to start our hiring now for the next year (or at least the summer.)
With all that said, again: this is going to look terrible, and it has been further damaged by the way it has been brought to Council.
What’s Happened So Far
(skip this part if you were at the last meeting)
On Wednesday, BAFCOM (Business and Facilities Committee) brought forward a proposal to raise salaries pretty much across the board. In the past, any proposal about changing the compensation of a large number of AMS employees has gone through a months-long consultation process. This one took about two weeks, and the BAFCOM Chair admitted that they didn’t look at any of the past reviews done on work hours and fair pay for AMS employees.
The proposal that came to Council was completely confusing, partly because the document that was emailed out to councillors had pages missing. Certain numbers in the presentation were wrong and were being changed on the fly. Council was also being asked to suspend code to allow the pay changes to come into effect in the middle of the executives’ term, which normally isn’t allowed. At one point, the Speaker of Council threw his hands up in exasperation because he didn’t know what was being voted on–and if he didn’t know, it was likely that nobody did.
It was around this time that the Coordinating Editor of the Ubyssey made the observation: “This is a farce.”
Where Things Are At Now
I should note here that the executives aren’t to blame for this. The proposal did not come from them, and they left the room while it was being discussed by Council. But please, executives, for the love of God: say absolutely nothing about this. Leave it entirely up to Council. Tweets like this and this from the President are extremely ill-advised, especially because many people have heard Jeremy make comments before about the need to raise executive salaries. [Update: Neal Yonson points to further unfortunate evidence in the comment section]
In the end, the proposal was tabled until the next meeting with the hope that it would be better presented to Council and more consultation would be done on it. But an emergency meeting has been called for Monday, so this is coming up again right away.
What Council really needs is to have the wage increase proposal presented to them in a straightforward way, to be informed of all of their options, to have an open discussion about it, and then have a clear vote and make a decision. Unfortunately, I doubt this is going to happen.
Perhaps the biggest reason for concern is the looming appearance of my arch-nemesis, Nick Frank, at Monday’s meeting. For those who don’t know, Frank ran the “No” campaign during the referendum. He is an indefatigable pest. If he doesn’t come, I’ll be very surprised. If he does come, expect this to be an excruciatingly annoying and frustrating meeting as Frank drones on with his endless speeches and trademark allegations of AMS greed and manipulation. But by proposing increased salaries for execs so soon after the referendum, the AMS is playing right into Frank’s hands. If he shows up with his pals, this meeting will be hellish.
So here’s what I think the AMS should do on Monday:
1. In the short term, only raise the wages that are directly affected by the minimum wage increase on May 1.
2. Announce that you are starting a full review process of all the salaries paid by the AMS. Do this review in the proper way, with the full support of the HR Manager, and with due diligence paid to the past consultation processes. It will take some time. Yes, the fee structure will be thrown off for a little while, and some new employees will be hired on a lower pay rate than they will eventually get—but it is the lesser evil to take more time and get this right, as opposed to passing everything in a rushed and haphazard way. And you know what? Nobody ever complains about having their pay increased during their contract.
3. Do not pass any executive pay increases that take effect during this term. That section of code exists for a reason: pay rates for the executives who currently serve Council should not be subjected to a vote by that same Council. These executives took their jobs knowing how much they should expect for their salary. Just have the pay increases take effect at the next AGM, when the new executives take over. It won’t require any suspension of code. If you do this, the controversy will pretty much disappear.
4. Have very clear messaging around all of this: that this proposal came from a human resources working group in BAFCOM, that it is in response to the minimum wage increase, and that allegations of AMS employees lining their pockets after the referendum are unfounded.
I suspect, however, that the AMS is just going to try and push this through on Monday. That will be controversial and messy, and it will be a mistake.