Despite the general trend in Norway, UiA and Oslomet chose not to deal with the issue of salary inequity for PhDs during this round of local negotiations. This year, PhD (Stipendiat) employees in Norway were given an increase of the minimum wage to salary level 54. That means a newly hired PhD starts a least 3 salary levels ahead of PhDs hired in previous years. This change went into effect in May 2019, and only affected PhDs who were hired on or after that date. The decision led to a visible pay inequity in the PhD system, whereby PhDs who were hired earlier, many one or two years senior, earn less in the same positions as their new colleagues.
UiAdoc took the position to advocate for a pay increase for all PhDs hired before May 2019. While UiAdoc is not a union, and therefore cannot participate in wage negotiations, we took this position publicly in September, hoping to encourage the unions representing PhD researchers as well as the University of Agder and other Norwegian Universities to find a solution to this issue during the local negotiations that concluded at the end of October.
As covered in the news outlets Forskerforum and Khrono, UiA is one of only two universities who took no action to level this pay scale in the local negotiations, the other being Oslomet. Many other universities in Norway, including NTNU, UiB, and UiO took some kind of action to either minimize or eliminate the pay difference between new PhD hires and their senior colleagues. All employees at UiA who are represented by Akademikerne unions, including Tekna which represents many PhDs at UiA, received a marginal pay increase of 1.65 percent. This is helpful for many, but not all PhDs are represented here, and it does nothing to address the pay imbalance, since it applies also to the newly hired PhD fellows.
We at UiAdoc have a charter to advocate to any relevant parties the issues, concerns, and requests of our constituents at the University of Agder, which includes all PhD and Postdoc researchers. We are disappointed that, although we advocated this particular issue to both the unions and the university during the local negotiation period, nothing was done. UiA has been rapidly expanding its research profile, and PhD researchers now make up nearly 17% of all university employees. Additionally, PhD and Postdoc researchers account for a significant majority of publications and conference presentations, which brings a solid contribution to the financial stability of the institution.
Again, we are disappointed with the outcome of these local negotiations. However, we are hopeful about working together with the unions, university board, and university administration, we will be able to come up with solutions to address these kinds of issues in the future. Some solutions have been proposed, for example lobbying in the central negotiation to formalize the pay increase structure in the future to reduce the problems that arise from such large jumps in pay difference.