Andrew Boden: APSA Executive Director

I never know which of my articles in this space will spark the most interest. In early December, I wrote about how APSA salary grade reclassification can lead to a much smaller salary bump than you might expect. I also noted that following a reclassification to a higher grade, your salary “…will be adjusted to the closest step in the higher Salary Range that provides a minimum increase of five (5) percent…”; and that the University appears to interpret the word minimum in this policy to mean the maximum increase you’ll get in such situations. (From hereon, I’ll refer to this as the five percent min/max rule.)

In response to my article, many APSA members were upset with the University’s apparent interpretation of this part of the AD 10 policy. Many members who had received a salary grade increase (usually with new and higher responsibilities) certainly weren’t happy about the five percent cap and questioned whether they would stay at the University for a couple hundred extra dollars per paycheque. Many mentioned that they could go elsewhere and do effectively the same work for more money.

But the group I heard the most from were APSA managers and supervisors across the University (and even a few APEX leaders as well). Their trouble with the five percent min/max rule is that the University seems to ignore supervisor concerns about department or unit recruitment and retention problems and rigidly enforces the practice anyway. An example: although Asghar and Rob (manager and director, respectively, and not their real names) were successful in raising two of their team’s job descriptions by two salary grades, they quickly ran into the five percent min/max rule. Together they pushed back. They noted that the pay increases amounted to almost nothing per paycheque, and both their team members, after waiting for a year to be reclassified, have now threatened to quit. 

“If we lose them,” Asghar said, “I don’t know how we’re going to survive. I don’t even think that we can fill their positions on what SFU pays. The last time this happened, we had two failed searches. I’m tired of failed searches because the University doesn’t pay enough. I’m tired of doing overtime to make up for our recruitment issues.” 

Rob, Asghar’s director, was especially upset by his inability to do what would be best for his unit around reclassification increases. “In my mind, the five percent minimum rule speaks of discretion to increase salary by more if that’s called for. The trouble is SFU won’t allow for discretion and we’re left dealing with the fallout.”

Asghar and Rob also noted that because the University hasn't let the APSA salary scale keep up with the salaries of external peer organizations, it’s left to managers and directors to push for job reclassifications in individual cases to make up for this.

“Managers have to compensate for external equity issues,” said Rob, “by pushing for internal equity increases. Organizationally, it doesn’t make sense.” 

The bottom line?

“I can’t hire qualified, experienced teams,” said Asghar. “And I can barely keep the people I’ve got on what we pay. I’m not alone as a hiring manager. This is widespread at SFU. I hope someone in the administration is listening.”