Universities Cave in to Treasury Demand for Full Wage Transparency

Universities will adopt a policy of full transparency on their wage data. Academic institutions must report to the Finance Ministry's Supervisor of Wages by the end of October 2009.

Data on wages will also be made available to the planning and budgets committee, to enable it to perform its duty as the body responsible for budgeting institutions of higher education.

The decision is part of an agreement reached Tuesday evening between the treasury's supervisor of wages Ilan Levine, the chairman of the association of senior lecturers Prof. Aharon Ben Ze'ev, and the chairman of the planning and budgets committee of the Council for Higher Education, Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg.

During a State Control Committee debate Tuesday morning, Levine told members that the universities understand that the current situation cannot continue, and the economic crisis has only made the situation more acute.

"The supervisor of wages has been trying to resolve the issue of excessive wages within universities for more than a decade," Levine said, "but have come up against foot-dragging and a lack of transparency within the universities."

Levine added that some universities are already having difficulties making non-contributory pension payments to their employees. "Due to their financial straits, some entities are not paying pensions to their retirees," he said. "We could find ourselves in a situation where pensioners cannot depend on their pension stipends. It is in the best interest of universities to deal with excessive wages, no less than that of government ministries."

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said the agreement promises to bolster supervision of university wages, improve the handling of wage excesses and sets a standard for transparency. "Excess wages jeopardize the ability of institutions to perform their jobs," he said. "It is untenable that institutions operating on public funding are not subject to the norms of transparency [regarding] their financial activities. Universities must be active partners in finding a solution, as it will have crucial ramifications on their future."

Sa'ar clarified that while academic independence is important, and he is committed to protecting it against any threat, "There is no relation between academic independence and excess wages, and it is just as well that this argument is no longer being raised."

State Control Committee chairman Yoel Hasson said that a crucial internal process has begun due to the upcoming committee debate, which will result in significant changes. "For the first time ever there will be real supervision over wage terms in universities," he said.