Guest Post: Reflections on the phased-in retirement plan

(QUFA is pleased to publish the following post from Sylvia Söderlind.)

I’m disturbed by the implications of the phased-in retirement plan (see http://www.queensu.ca/vpac/FacultyRelations/EarlyRetirementIncentivePlanLink1.pdf). I qualify for the plan and will likely apply for it, but I will be holding my nose while I do so, as the implications for my department begin to sink in. According to the two-year plan, I would be allowed to keep my salary (or at least most of it) for two years while performing only 75% of my duties in the first year and 50% in the second. I don’t think the world will suffer if I reduce the research component of my 40-40-20 by that amount, nor do I think my colleagues will look askance if I reduce my service participation. What will hurt others, however, and badly, is the reduction in teaching for which no compensation will be forthcoming. My good fortune will mean fewer courses for students, larger classes for colleagues. In my department, English, the 10% faculty complement allowed to take advantage of the plan amounts to three people, and it is a good guess that as many will apply. If we do, the department will lose nine courses from the roster over the next three years. Were we to buy ourselves out of these courses, the department would receive the savings from our salaries, at $8,000 per course, which would allow for replacements. As I understand it, none of the savings from the phased-in plan will revert to the academic units. Needless to say, few departments in the Faculty of Arts and Science can afford any replacements at this time of drastic cutbacks. And why is it that in non-departmentalized units only 5% of faculty are allowed to participate? Are English professors more expendable than business profs, or are English students less important than commerce students?

Much as I am happy to think of a slow ride into the sunset, I can’t help feeling there is something very wrong with this picture. At a time when cooperation seems more than ever called for, we are encouraged to act on self-interest. Were the academic units consulted on this issue? How do those QUFA members who will be called on to pick up the slack look at this?

Sylvia Söderlind
Associate Professor
Department of English
Queen’s University

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One Response to Guest Post: Reflections on the phased-in retirement plan

  1. Paul Young, VP QUFA says:

    Sylvia, your concerns are real and reflect the current climate. Even in the absence of a phased retirement scheme, the Faculty of Arts and Science is committed to a reduction of about 50 positions. There is no indication at this point as to how many of these will be replaced. Presumably we will not know the answer until the academic planning exercise has run its course.
    QUFA is on record as favouring a phased retirement scheme, available to everyone, as a permanent feature of our contract. In fact a somewhat similar scheme was proposed to Queen’s by us in previous bargaining sessions. Under more normal conditions this would allow for easier planning on the part of the faculty member, their department and the faculty on an ongoing basis. The critical difference in the present scheme is that it is one time only and Queen’s views it primarily as a short term cost reduction measure to encourage some retirements at a time when we are still coming to terms with the removal of mandatory retirement a few years ago.
    In the discussions leading to our decision to support this measure our concerns were that it not target individuals, that it be available to all departments in all faculties, and that appropriate credit be given for part time work as well as take into account interruptions in career paths and a variety of other issues. How a department or faculty would deal with replacements was outside the scope of the discussions. The university side insisted on a cap to ensure that there could not be a large uptake in any single unit. Your point is well taken however that the loss of 10% of the faculty and therefore courses in a department will present serious problems. Keep in mind that this is not a fault of the retirement scheme but rather one of how the resources will ultimately be used. The differential cap in various faculties reflects differing views of the need for such a plan within their individual budgetary planning processes.
    The plan is not perfect, especially in that it is not available to all on into the future. However, for now it may be advantageous for individuals and as such it was supported.

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