Volume 34 No. 3                                       Arnd Bohm                                        September, 2003

Out of the blue, management in the present round of bargaining has put forward a scheme for merit pay (for details, see www.carleton.ca/cuasa), the sort of thing usually called "pay for performance" in the business world. CUASA's bargaining team is still trying to find out from them just what such a scheme is supposed to accomplish. Surely there must be more at stake than having a carrot to go with the stick of their proposed measures for disciplining faculty members! While we are waiting for more detailed answers, this newsletter provides some background. A subsequent newsletter will bring more specific reports on how and why such merit schemes don't function.

Merit Pay and Just Wages

And so the disordered, messy, inefficient world of democracy can release a surprising percentage of society's genius. A meritocracy, on the other hand, is so busy concentrating on efficiently identifying who is the best and pushing him to the fore that it shuts down its confidence in the rest of us -- those of us who are turning our door-handles and willing to contribute, each in her own way and at her own level. The whole idea of a society of winners - a place known above all for its best -- leads with surprising speed to a narrow pyramidal structure. And then to division and widespread passivity. That in turn leads to false populism and mediocrity; to a world obsessed by bread and circuses, Heros, and the need for leadership.

John Ralston Saul, On Equilibrium (thanks, Thomas!)

On the issue of why people work, the parameters are set by utopian positions at two opposite extremes. One holds that people only work for money, and that greed is good. The other believes that human beings should act always selflessly or altruistically, and that money should be abolished. Both extremes have their passionate adherents and have led to spectacular experiments in social engineering.

Somewhere between the extremes lies the unexciting but realistic view that for most people it is a bit of both. On payday and during salary negotiations, we focus on the bottom line. Most of the time, however, we do our work because it is what we have been trained and hired to do and because it satisfies us as a vocation. Sometimes work sucks, usually it is ok, sometimes it gives us a sense of accomplishment.

Corresponding to these three notions are theories of how people should be paid. Towards the all-for-money model, pay should be tied specifically to performance as in piece work, quotas, and merit bonuses. The no-money-is-needed model emphasizes things such as volunteering, pure amateurism in sports, home care by unpaid providers, and unrestrained copying of music without royalties. The middle position is that most people want to be paid just wages for the work they do. They don't expect a bonus every time they have a good day at work; they certainly don't want their pay docked every time something goes awry. They do want their income to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

The middle position is the one that CUASA has held and defended. Through our union, we want the best possible salary and benefits for all our members. The struggle for a just wage is never easy, especially when the federal and provincial governments renege on their commitments to higher education. But our union's members have stood firm on the principle expressed by our motto: That All May Prosper. Of all the issues on the table in every cycle of bargaining, none is more important than getting the best possible financial package for everyone in our union.

Of course, the middle position requires pragmatism and flexibility in defending against pressures from both extremes. Against those who might insist that professors must surrender their intellectual property rights without fair compensation, CUASA has negotiated powerful protections (Article 14 of the Collective Agreement). Conversely, CUASA has ensured that members' extraordinary achievements can also be acknowledged materially without skewing the salary grid. The provisions for salary rationalization (Appendix E of the Collective Agreement) allow for correction of anomalies and also for adjustments "deemed necessary to meet exceptional situations of special merit, market differentials, offers of alternative employment, or obvious inequity" (3.1(c)). CUASA has agreed that outstanding teaching, research and professional achievement be should recognized annually (Article 42), according to mutually agreed guidelines. Together, salary rationalization and the three sets of achievement awards have amounted to just over $ 272,200 per year. CUASA has also cooperated to facilitate the appointment of Canada Research Chairs to Carleton, again according to mutually agreed guidelines. This prevailing climate of cooperation has brought positive results: according to the "Research Enterprise Report on Growth 2001-2002" presented to the Board of Governors on August 28, 2002, the members of the faculty "exceeded expectations for obtaining research dollars; new project development; and research activity levels."

Now some may feel that struggling for just wages is too mundane. Admittedly, a just wage is not an extreme goal. A just wage is what we all need as long as we have to work for a living. We earn it every day; we want it to be paid.

Recipients of Teaching, Research and Professional Achievement Awards 2001-2002

Teaching Achievement Awards (four @ $15,000)

James Cheetham (Biology)

Virginia Caputo (Pauline Jewett Institute of Women's Studies)

Tim Pychyl (Psychology/Centre for Initiatives in Education)

Edward Osei Kwadwo Prempeh (Political Science)

Professional Achievement Awards (5 @ $1,000)

Tom Ray (Electronics)

Ann Woodside (Mathematics and Statistics)

Natalia Artemeva (Linguistics and Applied Language Studies)

Laurie Campbell (Library)

Ene Tikovt (Library)

Research Achievement Awards (10 @ $15,000)

Hymie Anisman (Psychology)

Prosenjit Bose (Computer Science)

Lionel Brand (Systems and Computer Engineering)

Andrew Brook (Philosophy/Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies)

Paul Keen (English/ICSLAC)

Vinod Kumar (Business)

Bruce Pappas (Psychology)

Nicola Santro (Computer Science)

Wayne Wang (Chemistry)

Qi-jun Zhang (Electronics)


The deadline for nominations for teaching and research achievement awards is September 30. Candidates can be either nominated by a colleague or apply directly for an award. For details, see the Collective Agreement, Article 42.