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Federation may still pursue court action despite UNB contract release

The Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations (FNBFA) is still likely to pursue court action against the University of New Brunswick, despite the university’s release of president Eddy Campbell’s 2009 and 2014 employment contracts last Wednesday.

Details from Campbell’s contract were posted on the university website and included the president’s  $376,471 annual salary and job entitlements.

This action followed a long process of requests by the FNBFA, beginning in 2012 when universities in New Brunswick were made accountable to the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The Act, which allows anyone access to the records of public institutions, provided the Federation a chance to request copies of university presidents’ contracts.

“We had certainly asked for [copies of the contracts], but since the laws in New Brunswick were quite different until recently we didn’t really have any way to pursue the issue,” said Miriam Jones, president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT), a member association of the FNBFA.

“But then when the privacy laws were changed, we started implementing right to information requests on various different matters,” she said.

According to a press release by the federation, the university refused to disclose the requested information.

Kathryn McCain, chair of UNB’s Board of Governors, said in an email that “the university declined because of the privacy provisions concerns under the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

Mount Allison University was the only other New Brunswick university to also refuse.

The federation then appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner who ordered the university to release the information. UNB again refused to comply. According to the FNBFA release, their next step was to file a complaint with the court of the Queen’s Bench. The case is scheduled for Jan 8, 2015.

Although UNB has since disclosed Campbell’s 2009 and 2014 contracts, the full request to release all the presidents’ contracts since 2004 was not fulfilled and the federation still intends to go to court.

“They seem to now have come to the realization that the Court of Queen’s Bench will not side with them on this issue.  It is at this juncture that UNB finally goes ahead and releases Dr. Campbell’s contracts,” said Jean Sauvageau, president of the FNBFA. “There is nothing proactive about their recent actions.”

“The next step is to go to court. We are going to court with [Mount Allison] and there are a few things left over with UNB that may require us to go forward, as far as (not releasing) the 2004 contracts. (We want) the contracts going as far back as a ten-year period.”

Despite these concerns, Sauvageau said the contract disclosure was a step in the right direction.

“It’s a first step and we’re hoping it marks the beginning of an easier time in that direction, trying to get the information from universities about their finances,” he said.

Now that they have it, it is the financial information that the federation intends to focus on. The primary concern that came out of the contracts release was the issue of salary comparability, specifically with the rate of increase in the president’s salary.

“The one thing that strikes us is the rate of increase in many places… The rate of increase for professors versus for university president is nowhere near the same,” Sauvageau said.

“The presidents seem to be able to negotiate a (much) higher rate of increase and sometimes very significant adjustment above and beyond the standard increase.”

Both the FNBFA and the AUNBT are hopeful that having the information made public will level the playing field in salary negotiation.

“The comparability is the issue and the transparency. As you know it’s been a really rough year and we still have to wrangle over every little thing. So we’re all hoping that we can get to a better working relationship,” said Jones.

“But I wouldn’t say that this release of this information would necessarily imply that we’re there yet.”

In the 2009 and 2014 contracts for Campbell posted on the university’s website, it states that Campbell’s salary will be adjusted annually, by the amount of the Economic Adjustment approved by the Executive Compensation Committee of the Board of Governors for members of the Executive Compensation Group.

“In addition and subject to satisfactory performance, the salary also will be adjusted by two per cent annually with effect from each subsequent July 1st,” reads the report.

Campbell began his second five-year term as UNB president in July. The report details that he holds the rank of professor with tenure and is given a $12,000 research grant annually for “ongoing research and scholarship.”

He is also entitled to access university funding to “support the engagement of a post-doctoral fellow, research associate or research scientist.”

The university also provides Campbell with a “suitable car for his use” and “use of the university’s official residence.”

Campbell is entitled to an expense account to cover “reasonable travelling, entertainment and other expenses incurred by him in his connection with his duties as president.”

Reasonable expenses include business class travel “where the candidate is travelling distances greater than 1,500 kilometres or where business travel has been specifically approved by the Chair of the Board of Governors.”

The university also pays the “reasonable travelling expenses of the candidate’s spouse where his spouse accompanies him to a function related to his duties as president, subject to approval by the Chair of the Board.”

The university will also pay “reasonable moving costs” for Campbell to relocate from the official residence to another location elsewhere in Canada after completion of his full term of appointment, including any term of reappointment, “in accordance with the university policy in place at that time.”

Campbell is entitled to six weeks of vacation with pay per year and he qualifies for paid administrative leave once he completes his term as president.

*With files from Tess Allen

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