Employee salaries censored in STUSU budget

UPDATE: After hearing back from the lawyers representing the St. Thomas University Students’ Union workers’ union, STUSU president Husoni Raymond said the STUSU employee salaries will be made public tonight.

A follow-up story is in the works.

Increased St. Thomas University Students’ Union employee salaries have been censored from the STUSU 2019-20 budget and within documented memory.

STUSU President Husoni Raymond said the salaries, which are funded solely by students, are censored because of an understanding resulting from the Collective Agreement, a document he did not create. The only sum not blacked out in the employee salaries section is its total sum which stands at $134,000.91. The range of salaries can be found in the agreement on the STUSU website, but each individual positions’ salary range is not available.

“It might be an ethical issue disclosing how much people make. I do see the concerns of students, but this is what the employees wanted and what was requested and what was negotiated so I can’t speak on that specifically and I’ll be very cautious in what is being said because there is a clause in the agreement about speaking negatively about the workers union,” said Raymond.

“I have no personal opinions on it. And it is what the workers’ union wanted and what was negotiated and we are following through with that agreement.”

Raymond said the STUSU respects their employees’ right to unionize.

“We’re willing to meet with them and discuss any ways that we can make their experience with a union a rewarding, valuable and accommodating one.”

Created in 2011 after a dispute between STUSU employees and STUSU, the Collective Agreement is a 52-page document that governs the processes between STUSU and the employees of STUSU.

The STUSU workers’ union does not appear to have a current president, according senior employees of STUSU.

Raymond, who advocated for a more transparent student union in his campaign last year, said when speaking about the Collective Agreement, he is bound by a section in the agreement that reads, “The Employer accepts its obligation to ensure that it will work with the Union in a manner that is free of anti-union animus.”

The 10 positions whose salaries are censored are composed of general manager, activities coordinator, chief returning officer, the chair, the director of communications, the emergency bursary coordinator, the help desk coordinator, the recording secretary, a student advocate, the welcome week chair and the yearbook editor. The campaigns coordinator, yearbook editor, emergency bursary coordinator, student advocate coordinator and communications coordinator haven’t existed for the two-year lifespan of this iteration of the Collective Agreement.

They must keep the position listing in the budget document, because of the Collective Agreement, said Raymond. He said money does not get allocated to it.

There are also four spots allotted to summer employees, filled by the four STUSU executive positions, and the receiver general, vacation pay and workers’ compensation benefit.

Husoni Raymond, president of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union, said employee salaries were raised from last year, but it is unclear which positions and how many were involved in the salary raises.

The Collective Agreement states salaries of STUSU employees increased 3.50 per cent from a 3.25 per cent increase last year. Students’ pay also increases if they continue to work at the STUSU after their first consecutive year, anywhere from $15 per hour to $18 per hour from $16.02 to $19.25 per hour.

Each position is hired on a yearly basis, but advertised internally to current STUSU employees’ before the positions are posted to the STU student population.

Under New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Privacy Protection Act, a person’s salary is personal information, but there are exceptions.

In an emailed statement from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, which deals with right to privacy and information concerns, Kara Patterson, a senior legal counsel for the office said employee salaries at public bodies were one of those exceptions.

A public body is a part of government, an extension of it or a “local public body” according to the Act.

“The Act also requires public bodies to be transparent about the administration of their affairs, including how they compensate their employees.”

“Under this provision, the Act deems the disclosure an employee’s salary range (as opposed to his or her exact salary) would not unreasonably invade employee privacy.”

Patterson wrote it wasn’t clear if STUSU would be considered as a public body for the purpose of the act.

Down the hill, the University of New Brunswick Students’ Union hasn’t censored anything on their most recently published budget (2018-19) on their website, but they don’t reveal the details of their employees’ salaries either.

In 2018-19, their staff made a total of $100,000 and their part-time employees made $29,500, according to Mick Jefferies, spokesperson for UNBSU and the vice-president advocacy.

Both don’t go into detail about individual position salaries.

A section titled Services-Related Honoraria, which totals $8,650, does go into detail about the individual distributions of the funds. For example, the media marketing assistant makes $500 through the academic year.

In an emailed statement, Jefferies said their budget remains transparent because our their value and goal of transparency.

“We believe that students should be aware of where their money is being spent and be able to access these documents.”

St. Thomas University also has a list of the range of salaries for each staff position in compliance with the Right to Information and Privacy Protection Act on their website.

The Collective Agreement was last negotiated during the 2017-2018 academic year by former STUSU president Philippe Ferland, former vice-president administration Matt LeBlanc, former president of the STUSU Workers’ Union Laura Robinson and a lawyer on behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Ferland said the censored employee salaries isn’t mandated by the Collective Agreement in writing but it’s more of an “acknowledged understanding.”

He said he might not be as versed on the Collective Agreement and other STUSU-related matters because he graduated two years ago.

“They wanted their salaries to be confidential. We just didn’t want to have a labour dispute over that.”

Ferland said STUSU employees have no responsibility to be transparent toward students because they’re a union within the STUSU so they have choices for how they want their salary to be disclosed.

“We respected that.”

He said no other students were consulted concerning the renegotiation of the Collective Agreement because it was an “internal” matter, but that it was the best deal the STUSU and their workers’ union had ever made.

The agreement is scheduled to be renegotiated before the end of this academic year. Raymond could not supply an exact date.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the lawyer who were both involved in the creation of the agreement between the workers’ union and STUSU was not made available for comment before print time on Sunday night.

The lawyer who represents the workers’ union of STUSU sent an email to The Aquinian Monday afternoon. It stated the Public Service Alliance of Canada “had no part in censoring the salaries of [their] members who work for STUSU.”

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