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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

THE SCOOP | Federally Funded Arts Study Mistakes Positive Gains For Negative News

By Jennifer Liu on April 29, 2018

(Photo: Chris Liverani)
An independent investigation by Ludwig Van has revealed major errors in a federally funded study looking into the salaries of arts administration staff, resulting in a total reversal of the findings. (Photo: Chris Liverani)

A key finding of a government-funded study stands to be overturned, converting a deficit into a marked gain for Canada’s arts sector.

On April 19, the Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC) released their latest report on employee compensation among not-for-profit arts organizations.

Upon reviewing the report’s data, Ludwig van Toronto found significant errors in the calculation methodology used by the consulting firm, Mercer (Canada) Limited. What’s more, the current report cites four (see 1, 2, 3, and 4) figures that do not correspond with its 2009 edition.

The report was commissioned to gauge whether working conditions have changed since the survey was last conducted in 2008-9, as a younger generation prepares to take over arts leadership roles in Canada.

The report cites that compensation is recognized as a critical motivator to hiring and retaining employees. It notes that other industries — even in the not-for-profit sector — offer better working conditions than in the arts, affirming that “if base salaries and overall compensation packages cannot keep up with market trends, it could represent a risk to organizations within the sector for increased turnover in staff, as well as workload ‘burnout’.”

The good news for not-for-profit arts workers — and bad news for Mercer’s calculations – is that wages increased by 6.3% — contrary to the 0.1% decrease reported in the study. This overturns the study’s top key finding, even after inflation is factored in.

Ludwig van Toronto sourced raw data from the report’s information tables.

Organizations in consulting, advocacy and arts touring have shared the misinformation about the wage decrease on Facebook.

We reached out to CHRC executive director Susan Annis by phone and email to report the discrepancy. Annis referred us to a representative from Mercer who had seen the report.

We spoke on the phone with the representative. Asked to explain Mercer’s methodology to obtain the rate of change, the employee was unable to address the matter on the record.

We can only assume that the raw data was gathered with an intent to present an updated profile of Canada’s not-for-profit arts employee; however, neither Mercer nor the CHRC were able to dissuade us from our belief that a key statistic was inaccurately obtained — around which the CHRC has built their call to action.

The discovery raises key questions:

— assuming Mercer will release an updated report with correct statistics, what next steps will the CHRC take?

— has notification of the discrepancy been sent to stakeholders, the report’s steering committee, survey participants and governmental funding bodies?

— how will a positive wage increase announcement influence the CHRC’s advocacy efforts for arts executives and employees?

— how can federal funding bodies enforce reliable research methods for such reports that are funded by taxpayers across the country?

The study was co-funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the two federal bodies broadcasted the release on their social media channels.

We expect to update this story on Monday after following up on potential revised figures.

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Ludwig Van Toronto

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