It’s All About the Benjamins

Students and AUSU Members may not be aware, because it was only announced on April 8th, that in addition to the Annual General Meeting, there is also a regular AUSU Council Meeting being held next Tuesday.

Usually, AUSU Council announces public meetings to the members, at least on their website, so that students have the opportunity to attend. they’re not allowed or asked to speak, but they can listen in, and we do that here at The Voice Magazine, and then report to you on what council is doing.

This month, however, no council meeting was posted on the website, so I enquired at the office if there would be one. It turns out that there definitely is a council meeting, open to student attendance, and it is to be held immediately following the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 pm MST (all current undergrads should contact to ask for the call in information to attend for free).

Of course, I requested the agenda and was surprised to see that there was an email vote ratification. Ratification means that Council has already approved the motion through email, and now are simply confirming the result in a public meeting so that it has official legal standing. So what was this matter that had already been approved?

“3.0 Email Vote Ratification: BIRT AUSU approves a transfer of $16,912.59 from the surplus in budget account 5210 Office Wages to budget account 5215 Executive Wages to accommodate adjustments to executive wages for the remainder of the 2014/2015 fiscal year. C.Villeneuve moved, M.Daigneault seconded. Carried 5/0 (3 abstain)”

The three abstentions of the vote were by the three executive members of Council.

Apparently, it was a transfer to the honorarium of the executive. Apparently, there is some immediate need for the AUSU Executive to receive $16,912.59 more than they already are, for the rest of the fiscal year.

But wait, the fiscal year of AUSU only goes to the end of September. That’s only five months. Which means that these adjustments will have an annual cost to AUSU members of just over $40,500. Let’s assume they split this evenly, and that would mean each executive gets a pay increase of over $13,500, or over 33%. When was the last time you got a 33% raise? What’s really odd is that they are approving the funds to cover executive wages, but where is the motion to approve those adjustments in the first place?

To put this into perspective, the current wage of the AUSU President is $36,400/yr, and is topped up with benefits totalling up to $3,562 (health, plus two international courses per year). With what looks to be the additional wage increase, this would bring the total to just over $53,460. And that’s just the President, and it doesn’t count the laptop and smartphone that each exec gets to use as well.

These numbers assume the “adjustment” will take place right away. The other possibilities are that it took place before now (in which case, where is the motion recorded and the public announcement that is required by policy), or It’s pending for later (in which case the percentage increase may be even higher than I’ve calculated). I have to guess at what the real wages will be since council has already allocated the funds but hasn’t announced the adjustments yet.

For comparison:
Student Executives at Macewan University (MS-Word file, It’s safe) get a total of about $38,835, benefits included.

At the University of Alberta, the total compensation for the President is $39,804, including benefits.

At the University of Lethbridge, the compensation was set in bylaws last year, and at that time was only $29,172 for the full year. It’s since had one year’s worth of inflation applied. Interesting to note, the University of Lethbridge prohibits student executives from raising their own wages, they can only raise the wages for the next term.

NAITSA also puts their Executive wages in their bylaws (meaning that they need a rigorous examination to increase them), and those total approximately $37,000 with benefits.

And the University of Calgary? Well they’re harder to find information for, but this article a couple of years ago indicates that their wages at that time were just over $37,400.

This means that President Jason Nixon will be (or maybe already is?) the highest paid Student Executive in Alberta. And not by a few dollars, but by more than 30%.

President Nixon has said he is concerned that the Voice is taking 12.5% of the budget of AUSU members (about $75,000/yr) and delivering only to very few students, even though the bulk of that money goes directly back to students and writers who are contributing to The Voice Magazine, and providing entertainment, advice, and other coverage for the rest of AUSU. And a significant amount gets put into a reserve each year to save for much needed improvements to The Voice Magazine’s website and systems. However, it seems his only concern about his own pay, which now totals close to 9% of AUSU’s incoming budget, is that It’s budgeted for as quickly as possible.

All of this would be bad enough, except that this change prompted me to go back through my old files on AUSU’s wages, and I noticed that as recently as 2012, the president’s wages were just under $22,000 each year. Personally, I don’t remember ever seeing an announcement when they increased to what they are now.

So between 2012 and 2015, all during the time Jason Nixon was on the executive of AUSU, the wages of president will have more than doubled, based on the information we have.

But he thinks members should be concerned that The Voice Magazine is taking up too much of the AUSU budget. Perhaps he’s worried that there won’t be room for further raises to himself if the Voice is still paying students? money back to students and writers.

If you think that your Students’ Union fees should go toward programs for you rather than pay-raises for the AUSU Executive, you need to contact immediately and ask to come to the AGM and also ask to come to the unannounced public meeting afterward.

[Note: This article has been edited after legal consultation from AUSU.  None of the recommended minor edits have changed the article in any substantive fashion.]

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