Andrew Boden: APSA Executive Director

The day Ashlynn (not her real name) came to see me, she was frustrated with how her job reevaluation had gone. It had taken months to come through, and although the result was favourable (she went up two salary grades, from 10 to 12), she couldn’t understand why Human Resources was insisting that she had to be placed in her new salary grade at almost the beginning salary step (step two) of her new salary grade.

“I was grateful to get the re-eval,” she said, “but the difference on my pay cheque is less than $300.”

The University had told both Ashlynn and her supervisor that following a reclassification to a higher grade, her salary “…will be adjusted to the closest step in the higher Salary Range that provides a minimum increase of five (5) percent.” This, of course, is per policy, which you can read about here.

Ashlynn’s supervisor and her supervisor’s boss went to bat for her. The policy, after all, doesn’t say that five percent is the maximum increase that can be provided, only that it is the minimum increase. They, as Ashlynn’s leaders, not only know the extremely competitive industry that they and Ashlynn are working in, but also how difficult it is to recruit and retain in that same field across the country.

And still, the University continued to override her leadership’s managerial authority and prevented an increase to Ashlynn’s salary that was more than that five percent minimum.

I explained to Ashlynn and her supervisors that the University too often interprets that word minimum as the maximum increase in such cases. Once the bare minimum threshold of a five percent increase is reached following a job reclassification, the University will frequently refuse to go beyond that figure.

Ashlynn’s role at the University is both highly-skilled, student-facing and in much demand across Canada. When she originally came to SFU, she had fifteen years of experience in her field, and she was hired in her current role at her previous salary grade at the top step (grade 10, step eight).

“The irony is now,” said Ashlynn, “if I was applying for my job again as an external applicant, I’d get hired near the top step. I’d be a grade 12, step seven, or maybe step eight. Yet, because I’m internal, Human Resources has placed me at step two because of that five percent minimum language.”

Ashlynn isn’t wrong. Too often, in such cases, the University will privilege the recruitment of external applicants by permitting managers to hire well above the beginning salary grade step. When it comes to retaining internals in situations like Ashlynn’s, however, the University restricts managerial authority and flexibility, seeing that five percent minimum as the maximum.

“I came to SFU,” said Ashlynn, “because I loved higher ed and working with students. I could make a difference. But Vancouver is super expensive, and I’ve got my mortgage coming due. I could go somewhere else and make a lot more. I hate having to think that way, but what am I supposed to do?”

It’s a question many of our members are asking themselves, APSA and SFU.


*This is the first in a series on compensation issues for APSA members at SFU. Please stay tuned to upcoming issues of our newsletter for similar articles.