In polite conversation a person’s salary or income is usually as taboo a topic as sex. However, the issue of public salary disclosure in Edmonton has come to the fore again with a recent Edmonton Journal story by Gordon Kent (“About 2,000 City Staff Made More than $100,000 in 2013” July 7, 2014).
The story notes that only 27 of Edmonton Public Libraries 645 staff (or 4.2%) made more than $100,000 in 2013. In comparison, only the Community Services Department (once the firefighters are excluded) had a lower share of its employees making more than $100k. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 92.9% (13 of 14 staff) of the city’s auditor’s office made more than $100,000. While exact details on which individuals (and more importantly which roles) are missing, the general numbers show that librarianship is not a profession for those primarily motivated by the prospect of pecuniary gain.
More importantly though, the story emphasizes the continued push for more public disclosure of public employee salaries with the province of Alberta now disclosing some public employee salaries. The province of Ontario has had extensive public salary disclosure requirements since 1997 under the government of Mike Harris. Based on the 2013 Ontario data (available here: http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/publications/salarydisclosure/pssd/) one could discover that Al Davis, CEO of Library Services for the City of Barrie, makes $123,653.42 just a bit less than Steven Kraft, Assistant CEO of the Guelph Public Library, who made $128,819.72. These figures do give rise to both more insightful questions – why does the head of a public library in the larger city of Barrie makes less than the assistant CEO of a library in smaller community – and less insightful question – why $123,653.42 and not just $123,653 even. Still the most significant contribution of such numbers is not the information they contain, but the fact that the move for public salary disclosure reflects the continued influence of neoliberal ideology on public policy.
While library and information professionals, particularly those employed by the public, should take no joy in the ideological intent of public salary disclosure provisions, it is important to emphasize that a recent study underscores that rather than keep salaries low, disclosure spurs wage increases. As reported by the CBC earlier this year (“Sunshine List 2014: Ontario’s List Drives Salaries Up, Not Down”) several studies have shown that disclosure requirements lead to salary increases. Thus for public librarians the push for salary disclosure here in Edmonton must be seen as a mixed blessing – ideologically problematic, but potentially profitable for personal incomes. Despite the traditional taboo on discussions of personal income, perhaps there is room to embrace salary disclosure requirements but with a keen and critical eye toward the intent and outcomes of such policies.