Salaries subject to remuneration review

Personnel Committee to conduct first comprehensive examination of full-time pay since 2009-10

After consulting a salary grid, the Board of Directors passes all salaries for student employees of the AMS prior to the hiring period in the winter semester.
After consulting a salary grid, the Board of Directors passes all salaries for student employees of the AMS prior to the hiring period in the winter semester.
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Over $140,000 in student dollars are spent on AMS commissioner salaries — the equivalent of almost 2000 AMS-specific student fees.

This point was raised by Commerce Society President Nicola Plummer at a recent AMS Assembly.

“I would think that a vast majority of students don’t realize this is how their student fees are being spent,” Plummer, Comm ’13, told Assembly on Sept. 27 during a discussion regarding commission budgets.

Plummer brought the concern to Assembly in an effort to ensure accountability regarding student-salaried positions.

Currently salaries for each commissioner are paid through the $70.18 AMS-specific fee, which is collected from each full-time student in undergraduate programs, MBA and Medicine.

Last year, the salaries for the 60 salaried workers within the AMS were raised by five per cent.

“The finance committee met with a variety of individuals and decided to propose a five per cent salary increase to more fairly compensate the amount of work put into the positions,” Rob Gamble, chair of AMS Board of Directors, said.

Gamble, ArtSci ’13, said students ultimately can’t have the last say when it comes to salaries.

“There is a legal obligation in terms of how much we need to be paying salaried employees,” he said. “If you looked at the numbers and did some calculations in terms of what an hourly rate would be, a lot of the commissioners and the executive would be close to minimum wage in terms of their hourly compensation.”

After consulting a salary grid that is reviewed every March, the Board of Directors passes all pay for salaried positions. The pay isn’t finalized before the hiring period in January, but approximate salaries are listed in the job descriptions of each position.

Base salary amounts on the grid are calculated by taking into account Ontario minimum wage and factors such as time commitment.

Gamble estimates every year AMS salaries rise between 1 and 2.5 per cent due to inflation. He said the AMS-specific fee also increases every year for the same reason.

This fee goes into the Assembly budget and covers the commissioner’s salaries. All commissioners are paid the same amount and have no say in what their salary will be.

Because the AMS is a non-profit organization, it budgets zero for surplus or deficits each year.

“The total dollar amounts spent on salaries increased; however, the budgets were still drafted with the understanding that we budget for zero in the AMS,” Gamble said.

The AMS-specific fee didn’t increase with last year’s pay raise, but increases each year with inflation.

For the first time since the 2009-10 year, the AMS will undertake a comprehensive remuneration review for the 2012-13 term.

The review is an in-depth examination of salaries and job descriptions in the AMS, and will reveal how the AMS compares with other student governments in Canada.

“Ideally we will want to be done by the end of this semester or very early next semester, just so we can make proper decisions in terms of hiring for the next year,” Gamble said.

After the last comprehensive remuneration review, the AMS-specific fee was raised by $9.02.

The Personnel Committee, of which the majority of its four voting members are non-salaried, will undertake the review.

“I think it’s significant because the ultimate decisions regarding remuneration of our staff are made without any conflict of interest,” Gamble said

“Positions could theoretically be restructured if Board felt that money could be allocated better. Compensation could change,” he said.

A smaller part of the review will be cross-checking with other student organizations and governments at Ontario universities to see how they compare.

“I would say that the AMS probably has one of the lowest rates of compensation,” he said.

At McMaster University, employees of the McMaster Student Union (MSU) like the Director of the Silhouette, the campus newspaper, the Clubs Administrator and the Director of the campus convenience store work approximately 40 hours a week. They are paid around $33,000 annually, and make up some of ten full-time salaried student opportunity positions.

The President and three Vice Presidents of MSU are paid approximately $36,000.

Commissioners and service directors of the AMS receive $23, 961 for around 40 hours of work per week.

Amongst other responsibilities, commissioners must oversee committees within their commission, maintain office hours throughout the year and construct a budget, strategic plan and mid-year review.

The AMS executive is currently paid $24,223.50 yearly for 40 hours of work per week.

Mira Dineen, AMS vice president of university affairs, said commissioner pay is calculated at 40 hours a week on the salary grid, but that they often work more.

“If you’re at AMS Assembly from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m, generally speaking you also have to be here during the day because you also have committees and students coming to you for questions,” she said. “The hours aren’t a normal nine-to-five schedule, I would say.”

Dineen, ArtSci ’11, added that the philosophy of student jobs at the AMS is what makes it so unique.

“A lot of student associations aren’t like that,” she said.

The University of British Columbia’s Alma Mater Society offers nearly 60 permanent salaried positions, whereas the AMS at Queen’s offers less than 10 permanent positions, but 60 salaried positions for students.

While the AMS emphasizes a student-based workforce, there are requirements that employees must meet in order to be eligible for their position. Most employees must be enrolled in a 40 per cent course load and pay the full slate of AMS mandatory student fees.

“Students have the opportunity to develop skills, grow personally, and refine their career direction, but more importantly, students take on a meaningful role in shaping the Queen’s community through their work at the AMS,” Dineen told the Journal via email.

“If you are a commissioner, you are required to pay approximately $2,800 to even be eligible for your job — and that’s only if you’re an Arts and Science student,” Dineen said.

It’s a reality that not all students can afford to work at the AMS.

“If an engineering or a commerce student has an option between a summer internship where they literally will make more than they would at the AMS all year, they can’t afford to take a job at the AMS, unfortunately,” she said.

“Nobody here is making more than a dollar over minimum wage.”

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