HR Corner: How is my Pay Determined?


December 16, 2020 - 5:00pm

An exploration of factors that govern pay range decisions, with Patricia Elliott.

Have you ever wondered just how your rate of pay is decided? Why one role is paid at a certain rate while others are at a different rate? Strap in and we’ll explore the topic of determining pay ranges in this edition of HR Corner. Patricia Elliott is VIU’s Employee Relations Director and in this role, she is responsible for collective bargaining, grievances, contractual interpretation and other labour and employment issues. Her favourite part of working at VIU is the wide variety of work that comes her way. 

Q: Patricia, what are the factors that determine employee pay?

A: There are a number of factors that determine pay, both at the provincial level and at the VIU level. Wage rates for unionized employees are set out in the various collective agreements that are bargained between VIU and the three unions (BCGEU, CUPE and VIUFA). General wage increases are set by the provincial mandate, which is determined by the provincial government for all public sector workers. 

Determining what level or step you are at varies based on the union. CUPE has ‘positional based pay’, which means each job is rated by a joint job evaluation committee who determines the levels for various jobs based on a point system. There are a number of factors that are rated and assigned points, these include education, skills and experience required by the job. Employees who are hired start at Step 1 of their level move to Step 2 after their first year of employment.

Administrative employees similarly are subject to a job evaluation system with positional based pay. One difference is that the PSEA Sectoral Committee on Excluded Compensation determines ‘benchmarks’ for some positions and approves the applicable grid and levels of pay. A job evaluation process is used to determine the level of the position. When an employee is hired, they are placed at that level and move toward the assigned ‘job rate’.

Both BCGEU and VIUFA have a wage grid where employees (not positions) are placed at a particular level, based on their individual education, skills and experience. Employees advance through the levels based on their workload until they reach the top of the scale. VIUFA sessional instructors are paid according to a flat rate. BCGEU temporary instructors are placed on the scale and paid for the length of their appointment. 

Q: I’ve heard of PSEA before – what do they have to do with pay?

A: The Post-Secondary Employers Association (PSEA) is the bargaining agent for 19 colleges and special-purpose teaching universities in BC. These 19 institutions make up the post-secondary sector. This sector does not include the larger universities, such as UBC, UVIC and SFU. PSEA coordinates collective bargaining and delegates authority to VIU to bargain locally. PSEA also implements the government’s public sector bargaining mandate for our sector. That means all bargaining proposals and any agreements entered into by VIU are required to be approved by PSEA, which includes any changes to pay. Changes to collective agreement language at any point during the life of the agreement are also required to be approved by PSEA.  

Q: Why does my friend who has a similar job teaching at a university in Ontario get paid a different wage?

A: Faculty are paid differently across the country. Ontario universities do not bargain within a sector similar to ours – this means individual institutions have more autonomy in determining wages. In BC, because of the sectoral approach to bargaining, all faculty within our sector are paid according to a provincial grid. This grid is modified slightly from institution to institution to account for some local bargaining agreements but by and large there is minimal difference in faculty wages between institutions in our provincial sector.

Q: How often are pay scales reviewed?

A: For unionized employees wage scales are set for the length of the collective agreement and are currently increased each year based on what was bargained (according to the provincial mandate). Wages are reviewed when the collective agreement expires and is renegotiated by the parties. Our current collective agreements expire in 2022.

For Administrative employees, the salary scales may be updated after the completion of a comprehensive salary survey. The market-based survey is led by a committee of representatives from each institution in our sector and is undertaken generally every three years. Recommendations to change the salary scale must be approved by the Ministry of Finance.

If you have questions about your pay, please touch base with your HR Advisor who can provide information and advice on your specific circumstance.

Tags: HR Corner | In the Community

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email