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 eighteenth 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 tenth dealing with matters still in dispute.
In every bargaining round the benefit issue on which we get the second most comments from members in person and in our survey (after the Professional Development Fund) is vision care. Our vision care provision covers glasses (but not prescription sunglasses) and contact lenses to a maximum of $250 in any 24 month period, with two exceptions. Sessional Lecturers with less than a 50% appointment have to pay out of pocket for this benefit and faculty over the age of 71 get no vision care benefit at all. This has fallen behind industry standards, and is even behind the benefit level for other UBC employee groups.
At UBC, for the Administrative Executive group, the BCGEU on the Okanagan campus, and CUPE 2950 (library, clerical and theatre workers), the benefit covers the cost of contact lenses, eyeglasses or laser eye correction surgery to a maximum of $400 every 24 months. At CUPE 116 and CUPE 2278 (teaching assistants and markers) the benefit covers the cost of contact lenses, eyeglasses or laser eye correction surgery up to a maximum of $400 in any 24 month period for a person under age 19 or in any 36 month period for any other person (note that $400 every 36 months works out to more than $250 every 24 months).
Our proposal is to raise the benefit to $400 in any 24 month period per employee or dependent for glasses (including prescription sunglasses, which other employee groups on campus have covered), contacts, annual eye exams and laser correction surgery.
Regular readers of our blogs will be able to guess what UBC’s response has been to this proposal. In the last round of bargaining, the University said no to the proposal, and then at arbitration argued that it did not have the ability to pay any of our benefits proposals, including vision care, and the arbitrator did not award any benefits.
This year the University has again not agreed to our proposal. UBC has, however, made two counterproposals (the University made a total of three GWI proposals from which the bargaining committee could choose). Included in its GWI proposal of 5.2% over 5 years was an increase in the vision care maximum from $250 to $300. The University alternatively proposed that we accept a GWI offer of 5.15% over 5 years to have vision care increased to $400 every 24 months. In other words, the University proposed a substantial decrease in your GWI in exchange for either partial or full coverage on the vision care proposal. The University knows we cannot agree to a five year deal with a general wage increase well below inflation, so once again improvement in vision care benefits will be before the arbitrator.