Benefit Cuts for Members Past Age 71

Categories: Bargaining Updates 2014, Benefits, Economic Benefits, Total Compensation, Two Tiered Compensation

While the parties have agreed on many issues there are a number of issues still in dispute. On some of these issues the parties are likely to engage in further discussion that might lead to resolution, others will have to be decided by an Arbitrator. Please note that any items agreed to at the bargaining table will not be implemented until the interest arbitration is complete. This is the eleventh in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed to and those that are still in dispute, and the third dealing with matters still in dispute.

Members who continue to work past the age of 71 lose health and welfare benefits provided by the University, as well as the 10 percent equivalent of their salary that the University contributes into the Faculty Pension Plan. These conditions result in a significant drop in the total compensation members receive from the University once they turn 71.

Part 2, Article 7.12 of the Collective Agreement reads: “The following benefit plans available to members under the age of 65 remain in place for members who work past their Normal Retirement Date in accordance with the terms of the plans: Extended Health Plan; Dental Plan; Optional Life Insurance for Members; Medical Services Plan; Employee and Family Assistance Plan; Professional Development Reimbursement Fund; Dependent Benefits Coverage Following Death of a Member.” On its face this looks like a no discrimination clause, but the key, and problematic, phrase is this: “in accordance with the terms of the plans”. The PD Reimbursement Fund and the Dependent Benefits Coverage plan are not at issue, as those “plans” are described in the Collective Agreement, although there was a temporary restriction on PD funds for members over 71, which has since been rectified. The Medical Services plan is employee-paid, so that’s not an issue. The big issue arises with Extended Health and Dental coverage, which UBC has contracted with Sun Life to administer. The plan can be found at hr.ubc.ca/benefits/files/faculty-health-dental-booklet.pdf. One of the features of the plan is that coverage expires at the end of the year in which a member turns 71.

This provision causes serious hardship to members. When members continue to be employed past 71, they must purchase the more restrictive post-retirement plan (see Retirement and Survivor Benefits for additional information) or private insurance.* Whether they purchase insurance through RSB or privately, their costs would be higher and benefits lower than would be the case for their younger colleagues. Further, many post-71 members continue to travel as part of their professional duties and yet they don’t have any University-paid insurance should they suffer an accident or injury while performing their duties as faculty members.

The Association has proposed changing the benefits provision so that all members would continue to be eligible until they retired from the University. This is such a low cost item, but UBC has been clear and unequivocal in its position. It’s not about the cost, but about wanting to discourage faculty from continuing to work beyond the age of 71. While the University acknowledged during bargaining that the issue of faculty members travelling on University business without insurance might be something to be addressed, no such proposal was forthcoming.

The second post-71 issue regards the Faculty Pension Plan (FPP). Currently the University reduces total compensation paid to members once they turn 71 by discontinuing contributions to the Faculty Pension Plan, with the explanation that CRA rules require that individuals begin to draw on their pension no later than December 1 of the year in which they turn 71, and no more contributions can be made to the plan. While true, the University has not made any arrangement to continue to pay that portion of total compensation that previously was paid as pension contribution. To get a more fulsome description of this issue, read “Our Pension Proposal”. Our proposal is to reach agreement on a mechanism to maintain the same total compensation after age 70 as before age 70 because we do not support members receiving different compensation on the basis of age.

This is an important issue for us and we expect the University to work with us to develop a mechanism for maintaining the 10% salary equivalent, albeit in a plan outside of the FPP.

The University saves very little (approximately fourteen one-hundredths of one percent of their total salary bill) by reducing the total compensation of members over 71 through the elimination of extended health and dental plans, and pension contributions. If the University does not agree to our proposal to maintain the total compensation of all members, we will investigate the issue further to ensure that our members are not being discriminated against on the basis of their age.

* (March 25, 2015, 1:20 pm) An earlier version of this blog incorrectly stated that post-71 employees are not eligible to purchase retirement benefits. This was based on information on a UBC webpage, which turned out to be incomplete. We have since discovered that post-71 members are also entitled to join the RSB.