Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Some obviously can, and do.
"Excessive executive compensation of this magnitude is simply unacceptable in the public sector. This is especially so given the belt-tightening, cutbacks and general austerity facing so many in the university community."
Samuel Trosow, professor of law, London, Ontario

"It's not dissimilar [doubling a salary] to a vacation entitlement at the end of the day."
"So we hope we're able to manage through the appropriate communications with our campus so they're fully aware of the stature of leader that we do have on campus."
Chirag Shah, chair, board of governors, Western University, London
Hire WesternU
"With the university cutting staff and increasing class sizes, this double payout is a slap in the face to Western students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community."
London-West Member of Provincial Parliament, Peggy Sattler

"I'm not going to comment on any individual person on the sunshine list other than to say we know that there's a problem with executive compensation and that's why we're taking the steps we are."
"We're looking at all compensation, not just the salary."
Deb Matthews, president, Province of Ontario Treasury Board

The Province of Ontario publishes what it calls a "sunshine list" annually, setting out the names, positions and salaries of any provincial public employee who has earned in excess of $100,000 in the year that passed. This gives Ontario taxpayers the opportunity to peruse where their tax money has gone as far as public employees dining out on some quite generous salaries is concerned, so generous they far exceed what the average taxpayer could ever dream of earning.

High salary earners tend to be hospital administrators, heads of public utility operations, and those whose salaries may be below $100,000 annually but get bumped up because their profession often calls for overtime hours. The premier of the Province's chief administrator, for example, earns a higher salary than the premier herself by a whopping third more.

Take police, for example, Toronto's police are the highest paid in the province with over half of all Toronto Police Service employees numbering over four thousand in total, making the list. And a similar situation pertains across the province; in Ottawa the average police constable salary is around $80,000 but add in overtime and their take-home pay goes into sunshine list territory. In fact, there are in the province over 100,000 public employees on the list.

The province's power generation employees linked to Ontario Hydro represents about 7,600 people, and 75% of that total earned six-figure incomes in the past year. Who wouldn't want to work for Ontario Hydro? A list of some of the top earners but by no means all, is an eye-popping exercise in envy for the average worker in the province struggling to make ends meet, with rising costs threatening to swamp their ability to keep afloat.
  • William Moriarty, president of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation ($937,5000)
  • Amit Chakma, University of Western Ontario president ($924,000)
  • Robert MacIsaac, Hamilton Health Sciences president ($755,715)
  • William Reichman, CEO of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care ($748,562.51)
  • Marcello Carmine, Hydro One president ($741,554)
  • Barry McLellan, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre president and CEO ($714,999.97)
  • Howard Wetston, Ontario Securities Commission chair ($703,628.91)
  • Bruce Campbell, Independent Electricity System Operator president ($694,468.39)
Take the second figure on that list, Amit Chakma, president of University of Western Ontario. Just a tad under a million is quite some take-home pay. There appears to be some dispute about what he actually brought home to bank; another figure is $967,000 and that's an amount double his normal salary. Because, evidently, he worked through a scheduled one-year leave, the board of directors appear to have authorized him to receive double pay.

Moreover, because his contract was expiring, he signed a five year renewal whose provisions will once again permit him the option of a one-year leave or double pay, in 2019. The chair of the university's board of governors explained that since Mr. Chakma worked that one-year leave, the university benefited hugely from his ongoing presence representing continuity of leadership 'at a critical time'.

With his salary and its conditions revealed, not all who have learned of his very comfortable situation are as pleased as Mr. Shah. Over 1,700 people, including members of the university faculty, have signed an online petition urging university senators to bring a non-confidence motion against the university president. Despite that Mr. Shah insists the university board of governors remains "quite pleased" with Mr. Chakma's leadership.

Reza Moridi, provincial minister of training, colleges and universities spoke of a bill passed the year before, permitting for caps on public sector executive compensation. Executives, he added, are expected to respect a public sector wage freeze. But this expectation hardly takes into account poor Mr. Chakma's dilemma with his base salary in a frozen position since 2009. Some base salary, that.

But the controversy has not been good for the university's reputation, nor for its president's. So, imagining that it wasn't an April Fool's joke, here is the content of a letter that Dr. Amit Chakma had published to clarify the situation:

President’s statement on compensation

My employment contract with Western, executed in 2009, provided for payment in lieu of one year of administrative leave at the end of my five-year term. When I was reappointed, for the sake of continuity, I received payment in lieu of the administrative leave.
Although contractually sanctioned, in hindsight, I should have carried over my administrative leave to the end of my current term.
Today, Western’s Board of Governors retained the Honourable Stephen T. Goudge to conduct an independent and impartial review of my compensation. I am confident that Justice Goudge will complete a full and fair examination and I will wholeheartedly cooperate. I look forward to his findings and intend to abide by his recommendations.
In the interim, as a demonstration of my commitment to Western and to address the concerns that many have expressed, I have decided voluntarily to refund the in lieu payment to the University. I have also decided not to exercise my right under the contract to receive payment in lieu of administrative leave at the end of my second term.
I hope the above actions will allow us to move forward.
Amit Chakma
President & Vice-Chancellor

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