Davies: Minding the (salary) gap

I was a member of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) negotiating team for the librarian and archivist (L/A) bargaining unit until June 30. I am now on sabbatical and have no official involvement with UWOFA.

My particular interest is in salary matters. The L/A unit has other important issues, but the salary problem is particularly distressing.

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) collects salary data from its member institutions, of which Western is one. The most recent data are for 2009-10, and are publicly available at the CARL website. They allow the average salary of librarians to be calculated for each CARL member. 

These numbers show a 20 per cent gap between the average salary of librarians at Western ($71,748) and the average for the 11 Ontario universities that belong to CARL ($89,072). Western is not only far behind the average for the group, it is dead last. There is a small difference in average years of experience between Western librarians and those in the rest of Ontario, but it is not large enough to explain more than a small portion of the salary gap.

The Western librarians’ salary gap is extreme and unwarranted.

The administration has enforced the gap by refusing to allow the librarians and archivists to be in the same bargaining unit as faculty, as they are at other Ontario universities. Having carved off this small and vulnerable group, about 80 per cent of whom are female by the way, in three successive rounds of negotiations the administration has refused to adjust their wages to bring them into line with the industry standard. 

Is this any way for the university to handle its labour relations? And is it any wonder that our librarians and archivists had a 100 per cent strike vote?


Jim Davies, Professor, Department of Economics