Friday, April 1, 2011

Is my salary any of your business? (Updated)

UPDATE: Doorey has an interesting take on the sunshine list.

For the first time, I made it onto Ontario's salary disclosure list.  I won't link to it, but a trivial amount of Googling would lead you to find out exactly what I earned last year.

On the one hand, my employer is a public institution, and I agree that the public deserves to know how their money is being spent.  And there are some individuals, like university presidents and senior executives of public corporations, whose compensation packages are large, and who negotiate their employment contracts individually; these packages should be on the public record.  But I'm a middle-ranked professor with no administrative authority, and my pay is set by collective bargaining. Do you need to know exactly how much I, personally, get paid?

The disclosure list would perform its function if it was published as it is today, but with names redacted:  the public would know, in general, how much professors and other civil servants get paid.  I don't see what extra public good is served by printing my name, which is a significant invasion of privacy.

And a memo to the local papers: "Many more public servants earning six figures" is not news, although it certainly provides inflammatory fodder for people who think public servants are all fat cats helping themselves at the public trough.  Salaries naturally go up as a result of cost-of-living increases, which track inflation, so it would be a huge surprise if the list did not grow.  A much better question, whether the size of the list is growing at the expected rate given inflation, is not answered by any of the media reports I read.


Anonymous said...

How, when there is so much attention given to privacy in other areas of government and higher ed, it can be considered equitable to publish this info I have no idea.

(Disclosure: I work in Higher Ed in Ontario, although I'm paid well below the $100k mark. In other words, I don't take this position out of self-interest).

Anonymous said...

The university staff alone on the list account for $843,893,714.49.

I want to know exactly who is taking their share of close to $1 billion.

I think that the list should go further and publish the number of publications that faculty make each year (despite the numerous flaws in using that as a metric).

Andrew said...

Anonymous 5:37: If they're going to publish, there's no reason not to publish everybody's salary. As it is, the context-free publication of "rich" public servant salaries only serves to rile up the public. Of course, the news media happily play along.

Anonymous 6:46: In general, for each faculty member, you can check public sources (e.g., Google scholar, faculty web pages) to check how much that person is publishing. But I'm not clear on how that makes anybody any more accountable. For instance, I wouldn't feel qualified to judge the contribution of faculty members outside my discipline. And if you want me to crank out shitty, meaningless papers in third-rate journals to make it look like I'm earning my pay, I would be happy to oblige you, but I wouldn't argue that it is progress.

K.lara said...

As someone who is far from making the sunshine list, I feel for you and everyone else included. I'd be horrified to have my identity and salary be made so public. I can imagine the annoying spam, marketing calls and other intrusions members of the list endure as a result.

I like your idea of names being redacted.