**There will be a detailed pensions meeting in the fall.**
This is to confirm and clarify the early retirement eligibility rules with no penalty for the U of S Non Academic pension plan soft freeze at August 31, 2019.
As at August 31st, 2019 pensionable service will be frozen for the benefit calculation only, upon retirement. As people continue to work past August 31st, their years of service will continue to count towards the 80 rule. (age grows and service grows)
As people continue to work past August 31st, their years of service will continue to count towards 30 year service rule.
When people turn 60, they can retire without penalty also.
Q: When can we expect to see the signing bonus and back pay?
A: We can only speculate on this as it is in the hands of payroll. A good guess is between 6-12 weeks. We do not know if it will be one lump sum or spread out over 2 cheques. Payroll needs some time to get organized.
CUPE 1975 members vote to ratify collective agreement with the U of S
SASKATOON: Members of CUPE 1975 have voted to ratify the collective agreement reached with the University of Saskatchewan. The vote passed with an overwhelming 97 per cent majority.
“We want to thank all of our members for staying strong and united through a difficult round of bargaining. The gains we made at the table would not have been possible without the strong strike mandate from our members, their ongoing support, and the positive essential services ruling on our behalf,” said Craig Hannah, president of CUPE 1975.
The union was able to achieve a number of monetary and non-monetary improvements. The new term of agreement is from January 1, 2016 to December 31,2020
Highlights of the five year deal include:
- Wage increase of 0-0-1.5-2-2 with a $4,000 signing bonus (prorated for less than full time employees);
- Improved vacation provisions; and
- Pension plan changes that will continue to provide secure retirement benefits for our members.
“Our members are the backbone of the University of Saskatchewan. We are happy we have reached a fair agreement and look forward to continuing our work at the university,” said Hannah.
Senior Leadership of the University of Saskatchewan has indicated that employees be given the time to vote (4:30-6:30) and to participate in the ratification process. Tuesday July 9th, Health Sciences rooms 1150 and 1130. Be sure to clear your time with your manager.
Please bring your questions to the Tuesday meeting, 4:30p.m. 1150 Health Sciences building. Meeting starts around 4:40 with Q & A and voting to follow.
It has been a long road, but we have a deal that we are ready to present to you.
Thank you to everyone for your support and determination through all of this. By standing together, we showed the university that we are united and strong.
We also benefited from a boost from the Essential Service Tribunal ruling that rejected the University’s request to take away the right to strike from over 250 workers. Thank you to everyone who helped with our work with that tribunal and special thanks to everyone who appeared as witnesses.
More details of the agreement will be made available at the ratification meeting that will be held on July 9, but we can tell you that, when compared with the University’s last offer, we secured more increases in compensation, a larger ‘signing bonus,’ and a guaranteed level of income for all workers when they retire.
Now we need to ratify this agreement
WHEN: July 9 at 4:30 pm
WHERE: Health Sciences 1150 and 1130
WHAT: Vote to ratify the tentative agreement
While we were ready for any outcome, our goal has always been to get the best deal possible and we believe that’s what we’ve done.
See you on July 9!
CUPE Local 1975 Negotiations Committee
Dear CUPE 1975 Members,
As we’ve reported before, since March, your executive – supported by CUPE National – has spent a significant amount of time at essential services hearings, fighting to protect our rights as workers against threats by the University.
Today, we received the decision from the Essential Service Tribunal. (see attached PDFs)
The short version is: The University had asked for 252.3 FTE positions and 23 Call-in positions to be declared essential (which means those workers would not be allowed to join a job action and could not, for example, participate in a work stoppage to fight for better pay and a better contract from the University.)
The Tribunal declared that only 41.5 FTE and 7 Call-in positions were essential.
Obviously, all of our work is important. Keeping as few of our positions as possible listed as “essential” makes sure that we keep our right to make that point to the university when we need to.
Here’s a more complete analysis and rundown of the ruling by our lawyer.
In 2007, CUPE 1975 went on strike but agreed that certain members could work in order to protect the public. At the time, there was no essential services legislation in Saskatchewan. Later that year, the Saskatchewan Party was elected and soon passed essential services legislation. CUPE started a Charter challenge that ultimately saw the essential services legislation declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in SFL, 2015 SCC 4.
In response to SFL, the Government of Saskatchewan passed new essential services legislation. This hearing is the first time it has been fully tested.
The essential services legislation is set out in Part VII of The Saskatchewan Employment Act. However, Part VII does not contain a definition of ‘essential services.’ Because there is no definition, we argued that the Tribunal should apply the definition from the International Labour Organization (ILO). (The ILO is a tri-partite body which includes employer representatives, worker representatives and government representatives. It was established after World War I as part of the Treaty of Versailles. It is now part of the United Nations.)
The ILO definition that we argued for was that essential services are those needed to prevent “a clear and imminent threat to the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population.” At the hearing, much of the argument turned on the “clear and imminent” part. Ultimately, the Tribunal decided against fully adopting the “clear and imminent” standard but stated at paragraph 34 that “a requirement of a clear and imminent threat is implied in the definition.” I consider this definition a partial victory. It is not as clear as I would like, but it does allow us to argue the clear and imminent threat in the future, I think.
The Tribunal then applied this definition to the positions in dispute. At paragraph 56, the Tribunal stated that “[p]ositions whose absence would directly affect patient care were considered essential.” In contrast, positions at the College of Medicine that did not involve patient care were not declared essential.
The University had asked for 252.3 FTE positions and 23 Call-in positions to be declared essential. The Tribunal declared that 41.5 FTE and 7 Call-in positions were essential. The Local’s position was that 17 different positions work during a strike as part of a shutdown protocol. At the end of the hearing, we conceded that 5 more positions in the heating plant met the legal definition of essential services.
At paragraph 58, the Tribunal ordered that 6 security officers (“Platoon Members”) were essential. The University had asked for 16.
The University had also requested 62 positions (plus 15 on-call positions) to look after the various animals on campus. We argued that essential services legislation does not apply to animals, it applies to human beings. The Tribunal agreed and ordered that 0.5 Animal Technician be declared essential only because it handled hazardous substances.
At paragraph 62, the Tribunal noted that the University had sought to declare employees essential for irrelevant reasons included: property damage, interruption of research, disruption of student education, damage to the reputation of the University, unpaid bills and decreased revenue.
At paragraphs 63 and 64, the Tribunal agreed with our position that when employees are designated as ‘essential services employees’ they are only to perform those duties which are ‘essential’. They are not supposed to perform non-essential duties.
A paragraph 67, the Tribunal discussed clause 7-8(3) of the Act. This part of the Act requires the Tribunal to establish the “procedures that must be followed to respond to an emergency during a work stoppage.” We argued that the University should not be able to unilaterally declare an emergency and have members on the picket lines suddenly go in to work. The Tribunal disagreed and stated that the Local did not have the right to assess whether there really is an emergency before being required to provide employees. The employees must perform the work as directed. If the Local thinks there wasn’t truly an emergency, that issue can be addressed later.
If you have questions, please let us know and keep checking the website for more updates about this and our ongoing bargaining.
We’ve just finished two more days of bargaining and the only thing we have to report to you is that we’ve added a third day of bargaining today.
The administration’s willingness to stay at the table and to keep considering the proposals we’re bringing them is a positive step. We asked them back for this round of negotiations so we could offer solutions to the issues they’ve been presenting AND still protect our wages and pensions.
That’s exactly what we’ve done over the past two days and it’s what we’ll keep doing so we can bring the best possible deal to you for a vote.
REMINDER: Help share our message
And don’t forget to show off your swag – buttons, t-shirts, scarves, water bottles… whatever you’ve got.
By standing together, we can fight for and win the respect and the deal we deserve.
We were back at the bargaining table yesterday and we’re meeting again today. We’ll give you another update when we have news.
Wages and the university’s scheme to scrap the security of our pensions are still the sticking points. We’re standing strong but we’re also working hard and bargaining in good faith to address the points the employer is making. Our goal is to get you a deal we can all vote on.
We’re also expecting the ruling from the Essential Services Tribunal any day now, so keep checking the website for more updates.
We also need your help to show the administration how strong we are together.
What can you do to help?
Our message is simple – we’re looking for respect and fair pay for our work. And we’re looking for your help to get the message out
Help share the message online
We’ve started an online ad campaign and we need your help to boost our message even more.
Click here to get the first run of our graphics to use on your social media accounts.
(Square is good for Facebook, Instagram, and LinkdIn and the rectangle works best for Twitter)
When you post these, tell your story. Let’s remind the administration that we are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. We’re real people. We care about the work we do. We deserve to be shown some respect and be paid fairly.
Help share the message at your desk
While we’re negotiating, it’s important that we all keep doing our jobs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our message out.
If you work at a computer, use your desktop to show our message loud and clear.
Click here to get a graphic to fit your screen.
And, if people on campus who aren’t in our union see your screen and want a graphic for their screen, download the solidarity graphic for them.
Help share the message all over campus
We have swag, we have buttons, we have t-shirts, we have scarves (they really stand out when you wear them in June!) …. Showing your colours isn’t just a way to make a new fashion statement, it shows the administration that we all stand together.
Wear them proudly to the so-called staff appreciation picnic and let’s show President Stoicheff and the rest of the administration that what we’d really appreciate is a little respect.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the General Membership Meeting on Tuesday and congratulations to Holly Kreese (Food Services Rep), Sherri Duggan (Clerical Rep), Jessica Ballendine (Caretaker/BST Rep) and Leanne Ooms (Grievance Chair) who were sworn in as the newest members to our executive.
Your bargaining team is happy to let you know that the employer has accepted our request to get back to the bargaining table. We’ll be meeting on June 25 & 26.
We’ll give you an update when those meetings are over. We’ll also let you know when we get the ruling from the Essential Services Tribunal which we expect by the end of the month.
On Friday, June 7, your representatives finished submitting our evidence at the Essential Services Hearing. This hearing is an important step to make sure we can keep our rights as workers. Over 11 days, both sides submitted evidence through witnesses. A big THANK YOU to all of our members who took the time out of your busy schedules to appear as witnesses and help us put our best case forward. Your knowledge and experience of the workplace was obvious, impressive, and appreciated.
The next step comes on June 14 when both sides present our closing arguments. After that, we’re expecting a decision from the Tribunal to be released by the end of June. In the meantime, we’re calling the employer back to the bargaining table and have requested dates for the last week of June. As a reminder, neither the Employer nor the Union is in a legal position to initiate a lockout or a strike until the Essential Services Tribunal renders its decision. We’ll update you as soon as we have more news.
The sun is shining and the weather is warm but our fight isn’t slowing down.
We need to keep sending the clear message that we are we are willing to fight for fair treatment and to protect the pensions we’ve been paying into and negotiating for years.
Our next great chance is coming up soon and we need your help.
What: University council is meeting
(More info here: http://www.usask.ca/secretariat/governing-bodies/council/index.php)
When: Thursday, May 23, 2:30
Where: Room 241 Arts (Neatby-Timlin Theatre)
Why: because the people who run the university need to hear from the people who keep it running.
The University council is meeting this Tuesday. It’s made up of over 100 representatives including the University president and representatives from all of the colleges, affiliated and federated colleges, and the Library.
Come on out to the meeting. Bring a small (e.g. 8.5×11) sign. Let’s remind the University administration that we’re the people who actually keep this University running.
This won’t be a loud protest but it is a chance to show them that we’re in this together.
They need to negotiate with us in good faith, they can’t expect us to be ok with more wage freezes, and they better keep their paws off our pensions.
We won’t back down.
Click below for Nomination form:
CUPE 1975 has a vacancy on the Executive for a Caretaker/BST representative. If you would like to serve on the Executive, please print off the attached nomination form. Follow the instructions laid out in this form and send or deliver to Room 21 McLean Hall. The deadline to receive nominations is June 3, 2019. If you need further clarification or wish to know what duties are performed by a representative please call the union office at 966-7015.
Listed below are links to handouts which were given out to members at the May 14th Special Membership meeting.
A special membership meeting will be held for CUPE 1975 members to update you
on the state of Negotiations. CUPE Pensions expert Mark Janson will be in attendance along with
our CUPE National Representative and our Negotiating Team.
Date: Tuesday May 14, 2019
Time: 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Location: 1150 Lecture Theatre Health Sciences Bldg. (Next to Tim Hortons)
If you work a night shift let your supervisor know you are attending. The Union will pay for your time away from work. You MUST advise the union office by emailing email@example.com or phoning 966-7015. We will need the time you attended and your supervisor and department name.
Caretakers who are on night shift: you have been allowed time off from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. to attend the meeting. If you will attend the meeting you must sign the attendance sheet. If your name does not appear on the sign in sheet you will not be paid for your time away form work. You must also let your supervisor know that you will be attending.
If you have any questions in regard to this meeting please call the union office at 966-7015.
Please click on the link for CUPE’s response to Management’s mail out of April 29th to OUR members.
Listed in both PDF and word
Q: Am I allowed to take bathroom breaks outside of my regularly scheduled break times?
A: Though it is preferred you take your bathroom breaks during your scheduled break time, you ARE permitted to take bathroom breaks during your shift. To ensure your area is maintained in your absence, inform your supervisor and co-workers that you will briefly be away. If you are being prevented from taking bathroom breaks, please contact your union rep (see: “About Us” on the CUPE1975.ca website) or if you don’t have one, the union office at firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Saskatchewan continues to force Local 1975 needlessly towards job action.
Their latest proposal is a further step backwards. They have withdrawn their pension proposal and let us know that – instead of bargaining changes – they plan to make unilateral changes to your pension plan without any input from the union. We are concerned they plan to convert the defined benefit plan to an inferior defined contribution plan in the near future.
They have withdrawn their revised compensation model proposal and are still offering 0-0-0-2-2, with a $3000 signing bonus. The proposed signing bonus is not available for FAPA students, casuals, and recurring relief and is pro-rated based on FTE. A 3-year wage freeze means a loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages over a career of work for an average CUPE member. Members who are at the top of their phase, will not get a wage increase at all for the term of this Collective Agreement.
Your bargaining committee wants to reiterate that our pension plan is the cheapest pension plan per employee on campus, and costs less than 1 percent of the operating costs of the University.
We firmly believe that our members deserve a say in their retirement security, deserve a secure pension after a career of work, and that all changes to the pension plan should be negotiated at the bargaining table.
CUPE has spent much of the last month in essential services hearings, at the University’s insistence. At these hearings, the University has been making the case that the work our members do is so essential, that they should be deprived of their Charter rights to take job action. This latest step backwards at the bargaining table proves once again that despite arguing that our members are essential in their eyes, we are clearly not valued or respected.
The CUPE1975 and University negotiating teams will return to the bargaining table on the afternoon of Thursday, April 18th. Our bargaining team will be receiving a revised offer of which will be reviewed at that time. Updates will be posted as they become available.
April 25th, 9a.m.-noon
Agriculture Building – In the hall near the Agriculture Buffeteria
Come speak with your negotiating team and receive a free Tim’s coffee card. Negotiators Jeff Theis and Ryan Klassen will be available to answer your questions.
Federal and provincial regulations limit member risk sharing and will leave the University with increased financial responsibility
We are not aware of any such hard limits that are not routinely waived by the federal government. Members in SK and elsewhere around the country routinely contribute directly to deficit payments without regulatory issues. Most public sector workers are in jointly-sponsored plans with full risk-sharing.
CUPE’s proposed governance structure is complex and costly
Our governance proposal was clear and simple and follows best practices for pension governance from around the country. The pension plan already has an advisory committee which meets regularly. Our proposal would have essentially formalized this committee to act as the joint administrator of the pension plan. In our view, this is would not lead to any substantial increase in costs, and would benefit the University by sharing the current regulatory and compliance risks it faces alone in the current arrangement.
We will of course continue to have differences of opinion on the pension plan. But we want to work those out at a joint table, rather than having changes imposed by the University (as the University has threatened to do). That is not a “complexity” – that is honest bargaining to find mutually-agreeable solutions, which we remain committed to doing. If the University had specific concerns with our proposed governance framework, they could have discussed them at the table, rather than simply rejecting our compromise proposal as a whole.
“The university has been exploring solutions both outside and inside of negotiations with CUPE 1975 for 10 years to make the Non Academic Pension Plan sustainable”
We were clear with the University that our members do not want to give up their secure Defined Benefits in retirement, which cannot be delivered with a contribution limit for the University. We did, however, propose a clear compromise on the employer’s concern about risk – effectively offering to meet them halfway and share risk on a 50/50 basis which the University rejected. This builds on substantive proposals we made in the last round of bargaining that would have likewise shifted costs and risks. CUPE has been making significant efforts to make pension proposals that directly address the University’s stated concern. The University, on the other hand, has not moved from their insistence on Defined Contribution or Target Benefit plans since 2012.
At the union’s request, the parties returned to the bargaining table on April 5, 2019. The intent of the meeting was to continue discussions about the union’s pension proposal. While discussions were cordial, unfortunately we did not make any progress.
The Essential Services Tribunal will continue in May and June with closing arguments scheduled for June 14, 2019. We can expect a decision from the Tribunal at the end of June or early July. No job action can be taken until a decision is reached.
No further bargaining dates are scheduled.
CUPE did not propose a “true” Jointly-Sponsored Pension Plan since surpluses are spent on member benefits and do not benefit the University
Our proposal was a jointly-sponsored plan with a very conservative approach to surplus use, which we specifically chose to better meet the University’s stated concerns about risk. Plan surpluses can be used for different things – they can be spent on benefit improvements, used to reduce or eliminate required contributions to the plan (a contribution holiday), or they can remain in the plan to act as a buffer against future downturns. The University is incorrect that we proposed surpluses would only be spent on benefits. Our proposal actually said that all surpluses would not be spent and would remain in the plan (as a buffer against future downturns) until the plan was 120% funded. This is a very conservative approach. Having this buffer would help in keeping the plan out of deficit in a future downturn. Most other jointly-sponsored plans in the country would start “spending” surplus on benefit improvements at much lower levels. Having a high buffer like this, however, would help prevent contributions from rising in response to a future market downturn (i.e. directly addressing the main concern the University raised about pension costs). We could have left this buffer out and said that all plan surplus was for benefit improvements, but we did not. We set this high bar that directly benefits the University by helping to keep contributions stable. The University’s critique on this point reveals the reality that they don’t like our proposed restrictions on their ability to take even more contribution holidays in the future. We also indicated at the table that we were prepared to talk more about the surplus provision if the University was not satisfied with it, but the University never engaged on this point, rejected our position and is now raising these points in public instead of at the bargaining table.
“The defined benefit pension that you have earned up to the point of any changes to the plan CANNOT be changed and is payable monthly for your lifetime”
“Current pensioners will not be affected by any future changes”
These statements are currently true, but there are no guarantees that they will always be true. The Saskatchewan Pension Benefits Act is the source of the legal obligation that says that past DB pension promises cannot be later reduced. But this legislation can be changed. And similar legislation has been changing in very troubling ways in other provinces in recent years.
In 2012, the government of New Brunswick changed its Pension Benefits Act to give employers the option to convert their existing Defined Benefit plans (where benefits cannot be reduced) into Target Benefit plans (where benefits can be legally reduced). These conversions are permitted not only on a go-forward basis, but also on a retroactive basis for DB benefits that have already been promised. Essentially, the rewrite of the NB pension law allowed employers to legally walk away from the pension promises they had made to both active workers and retirees. Most of the public sector plans in the province have since been converted under this law.
The governments of Prince Edward Island and Quebec partially followed suit for certain public sector plans. The Trudeau federal Liberal government has tabled similar legislation for federally-regulated pensions. Manitoba and Nova Scotia are in the midst of consultations about whether to import these laws to their jurisdictions.
The Saskatchewan government could follow suit and pass similar changes to our province’s Pension Benefits Act. If they did so, the University would have the option of converting your already-earned promised pension into a promise-less “target” benefit. If that option is on the table for the University, we would need two things to stop them: 1) control over our pension plan, 2) a local membership that continues to be fully committed to preserving the DB plan (which would not be the case if either of the University proposals were accepted).
The University likely emphasizes the points above because they want members who are close to retirement to feel that their stakes in this fight are relatively low, since most of their pension is already “banked” and fully protected. If we accepted the University’s proposal to move into a DC plan, how would this member’s pension be protected if our provincial laws were changed? Why would a future membership fight to preserve the DB plan of retirees, when most active members never even participated in the plan?
Pensions in Canada are under attack, with even past promises being put on the table. We will need the next generation to fight to protect our pensions in retirement. As always, we are stronger together.
- May 2, 3 (Employer evidence)
- May 22, 24 (Employer evidence)
- June 4-7 (Union evidence)
- June 14 (Argument)
No job action (including withdrawal of services or lockout) can commence until we receive a ruling from the Tribunal.
We will be back at the bargaining table on April 5th and will provide an update after that meeting.
“The DB plan type that has been on the decline over the past number of years across the country”
While fewer private sector employers are offering DB pension plans, this plan type remains standard in the public sector.
91% of public sector workers who have a pension plan have a DB plan.
DB plans remain standard in the University sector, particularly for non-academic staff unions that CUPE represents.
A very good article from reporter Kelsey Rolfe/March 29, 2019 which takes a look at CUPE 1975’s struggle with maintaining the Defined Benefit Pension plan.
The Essential Services Tribunal hearing commenced on March 26-28. During those three days, testimony was provided by five of the ten employer witnesses. We are in the process of setting additional dates to continue the hearing. Once the University’s witnesses are finished, CUPE will submit its evidence. We will continue to update you throughout the process.
Click on the following link to watch a recap of our rally at the bowl on March 11, 2019
The University is offering a “competitive pension plan”
The University has offered two different pension plans (Defined Contribution or Target Benefit) that share the same basic legal structure. In both proposed plans: 1) the University bears no risks and 2) plan members bear all of the risks. This is a complete change from your current DB plan, which provides secure, promised pension benefits that members can count on through their entire retirement. The University says they do not want any pension risk. They would prefer to see plan members with no real pension security, where your life in retirement will be tied to the whims of the stock and bond markets. These insecure types of pensions are not in any way comparable to the current DB plan.
Upending the structure of the plan is apparently not enough, however. In both scenarios, the University also proposes lower contribution rates, which would save the University millions of dollars per year. For the average CUPE 1975 member, the employer would save about $2000 per year! (in addition to dumping all of the pension risk onto plan members).
Roughly speaking, the “Target” benefit option actually aims to deliver about 25% less than your current DB plan does! And since the benefits are not promised like your DB benefits are, you may very well receive less than this. It’s all up to the markets and if you happen to work and retire at the “right” time.
The DC option is even worse. We can’t say what it will deliver compared to the DB plan, since the benefits here are wholly dependent on market returns. This uncertainty is exactly why we don’t like DC plans. Given the contribution rates and the structure of the plan, the proposed DC plan is probably worth some 40-50% less than the DB plan you currently have.
Complete risk shifting, massive cost savings and huge reductions in benefit value do not result in a “competitive” pension plan to your current DB plan!
|CURRENT PLAN||UNIVERSITY PROPOSALS|
|Current Defined Benefit (DB)||Defined Contribution (DC)||Target Benefit (TB)|
|Ongoing Cost to University (as % of Payroll)||11.37%||6.82%||7.5%|
|Annual University Savings (as % of Payroll)||N/A||4.55%||3.87%|
|Annual University Savings (for an average CUPE member salary $50,000)||N/A||$2275||$1935|
“This pension plan is in a deficit and running an annual shortfall”
After nine years of being in deficit, the interim 2017 valuation revealed that the plan is now back in surplus (103% funded, $12 million surplus) on the actuary’s best estimate basis. If a 5% funding buffer (or “margin”) is added to artificially inflate the plan’s liabilities, the plan has a very slight deficit (98% funded). In either case, the funding level has improved materially over the past decade.
Virtually all pension plans fell into deficit after the 2009 financial crisis – the worst market crisis since the Great Depression. Our plan fell to a low funding level of 86% in 2011. The important point is that the plan has been steadily improving its funding level since this low point. The existence of a deficit in any given year does not mean the plan is broken or in crisis. The pension system is designed to bring plans back into balance over time.
The plan is also not “running an annual shortfall.” This suggests that the required contributions to the plan are not being made and that the plan has a structural funding problem. This is not the case. The “annual shortfall” the University refers to here seems to be a reference to the fact that the University contributes more than members do for the ongoing cost of the plan. The legal plan document says that members pay 8.5% of earnings into the plan, and that the employer must pay the remaining required contributions to the plan (and must at least match what members put into the plan). Currently, the ongoing cost of the plan is 19.87%. Members pay 8.5%, leaving the University to pay the remaining 11.37%. The University calls the difference between the member and employer rates (11.37% – 8.5% = 2.87%) an “annual shortfall.” There is no legal or actuarial principle that says that employers and members must equally share the ongoing cost of the plan. Our plan text does not say that members must pay the same as the employer. It is quite common for member contribution obligations to be fixed, as ours is, leaving the employer responsible to fund the remainder, which is often a larger amount, again, as it is in our plan currently.
So this is not an “annual shortfall.” All of the required annual contributions to the plan are being made. The language used has likely been chosen (and left unexplained) by the University to advance their bargaining agenda: to convince you that your pension plan has a structural problem that does not really exist. This being said, we understand that the Employer does not like the fact that they currently contribute more to the plan than members do. Our pension proposal would reduce member benefits slightly on a go-forward basis and increase member contributions slightly to eliminate this differential. Ongoing costs would then be shared 50/50 in our proposal (eliminating what they call the “annual shortfall”). The University rejected this proposal.
“These significant additional contributions are expected to continue into the future under the pension’s current structure”
This is not true. The most recent actuarial report shows that University contributions have already come down significantly, with further reductions projected for the coming years. For example, in 2017, the employer required contribution to the plan was 16.14% of payroll. In 2018, the rate has fallen significantly to 12.84%. The rate is projected to be 12.05% in 2023 and then 11.37% in 2027 on wards. The Union’s pension proposal, which the University rejected, would bring this rate down even further to about 9%.
Labour Relations Board Update!
The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has ruled that CUPE Local 1975 is allowed to withdraw from the Scope application, LRB File No. 120-12. This removes one of our legal barriers to taking job action.
The Union will be in front of the Essential Services Tribunal on March 26-28. CUPE’s position is that the University of Saskatchewan does not meet the criteria of an essential services employer under the Saskatchewan Employment Act. We will update you after the hearing concludes.
The parties are returning to the bargaining table on April 5th to further discuss the union’s pension proposal.
“The university did not take a contribution holiday.”
The University took 17 years of partial contribution holidays between 1993-2009. The University is required to file papers with pension regulators each year, which clearly show these holidays. The Union has copies of all of these records.
During this period, the employer diverted funds from the pension fund surplus to reduce the contributions the University would have been otherwise required to make to the plan under provincial law. Members continued to pay their full contribution obligation under the plan each year. The University did match these member contributions but was required under the law and the terms of the plan to contribute more than members to fully fund the plan’s benefits. However, the University chose to fund these additional required contributions to the plan from the plan fund’s surplus, instead of making actual cash contributions to the plan. We call this a “partial contribution holiday.”
2009 Non-Academic Plan “Annual Information Return” was filed with provincial and federal regulators. Note $2,048,872 in “surplus” assets used to reduce the “required employer contributions”
In nominal terms, these 17 years of partial holidays totaled nearly $28 million. Accounting only for inflation, they would represent more than $36 million in today’s dollars. Accounting for lost investment returns that could have been realized on these contributions – had they been made – would push a total figure even higher.
It is also worth highlighting the 2009 partial holiday. The year after financial crisis (when the plan lost 16%) and the year after the last cost-of-living increases to retirees were delivered, the University used $2 million of plan surplus to cover a portion of its own contribution obligation (see above).
These decisions were not only unwise. The Union believes at least one and likely more of these holidays were illegal and violated the pension plan text. We have filed a grievance on this issue which we put into abeyance in a good faith effort to settle a collective agreement regarding pension.
NOT A MYTH, BUT CONTEXT NEEDED
The University has paid an “additional $29.8 million in contributions beyond normal contributions over the past decade ($3.1 million in 2018).”
The Union has always acknowledged the cost of these additional contributions, which were largely the result of the 2008-09 economic crisis, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In this spirit, in the 2013-14 round of bargaining, the Union offered changes to the plan that would have seen Union members shouldering about half of the University’s special pension payment obligations – but the University rejected this proposal. And our current proposal would see any future deficits and pension costs shared on a 50/50 basis. This proposal was similarly rejected.
And, as we detail below, these additional contributions have come down significantly in the past year, with further reductions projected in the coming years.
The University should not be selective when discussing the plan’s history. To repeatedly only reference a challenging period following a historic economic downturn, when University contributions to the plan were higher than normal, is narrow and potentially misleading. The University should also speak about the 17 year period before the downturn, when the pension was in surplus and their contributions were reduced by using this surplus to take partial contribution holidays.
And we should also speak about a better future. The Union believes we should learn from this history and allow more plan surpluses to remain in the plan. This would allow future plan surpluses to function as a reserve against future downturns, in the hope of preventing future increases in contributions.
Public sector workers like University workers have “gold plated pensions”
The plan pays a modest average annual pension of $18,100.
The plan also does not provide guaranteed cost-of-living increases for retirees (also known as “indexation”). Indexation is provided on an ad hoc basis and has generally been delivered out of surplus, when surplus exists. As the cost of living increases each year, retirees under the plan do not know if their pension cheques will keep pace each year. The employer does not bear any pension liabilities associated with this risk. Pensioners have actually not seen an increase since 2008. Their pensions have since lost nearly 20% of their real value by not keeping pace with the rising cost of living. Most University plans in Canada offer better inflation protection.
MYTHS ABOUT THE PLAN
The pension plan is not sustainable
Your pension plan is sustainable. Your plan is not broken, nor is it in crisis. Language like this is used by employers to convince you that we need to abandon the pension to save the pension. This is untrue ideological language that the Employer is using to advance their bargaining agenda of attacking your retirement.
- Funding Level Improved. Like virtually all pension plans, your plan did fall into deficit following the global financial crisis of 2009 (the worst crisis since the Great Depression). This did not mean the plan was broken. The pension system is designed to bring plans back into balance over time. The plan’s funding health has since been steadily improving since the downturn, and the 2017 valuation shows that the plan is now back in a small surplus on the actuary’s best estimate.
- University Costs Significantly Declining. The 2017 valuation also allowed University contributions to decline significantly in 2018, with further reductions projected in the coming years.
- History of Plan Surpluses. The challenging period since 2009 follows a long period in which the pension plan was in surplus. As described in more detail below, the University used significant portions of this surplus to reduce their own contributions to the plan (“partial contribution holidays”).
- Actuarial Basis Safer. Over the past decade, the University has accounted for the fact that Canadians are living (and will continue to live) longer and has made its actuarial assumptions more conservative, which lowers the risk of future deficits. These costs have already been factored into the plan.
- CUPE 1975 Reasonable Pension Partner. CUPE 1975 has always recognized the fact that the period after the downturn required the University to make extra contributions to the plan. In this and the last round of bargaining, we offered changes to the plan that would have significantly mitigated these cost increases. These proposals were all rejected by the University. Our offer in the current round would ensure that the burden of any future downturns would be shared on a 50/50 basis, on top of reducing annual University costs by millions. The University has rejected this offer.
- Solvency Funding Exemption. In 2013 the provincial government changed pension funding rules to exempt the University permanently from its “solvency” funding obligation, which makes the plan’s funding requirements much more stable over time, helping the University to fund the plan. CUPE publicly supported this exemption.
- Pension Costs in Perspective. The University cites pension costs in the millions in the hopes that members will be convinced that abandoning the DB plan is necessary to the institution from a financial perspective. The University’s budget is about one billion dollars. The total cost of your plan to the University is not even 1% of the budget. The extra contributions the University has made to the plan over the past decade is an even smaller number. Our pension proposal would shave these fractions even further. The University can afford our modest DB plan.
CUPE 1975 Members: Please join your Negotiation team today at our noon hour rally! If we make a little noise someone might just listen to us! Meet at Nobel Plaza in front of the Peter McKinnon Building at noon.
We need to get the message to the Board of Governor’s that this University works only because we do!
Thank you to everyone who attended the March 11th Special Membership Meeting. Please take the time to read the attached document put out by our CUPE 1975 Bargaining Team. A big thank you must go out to Mark Janson, CUPE National Pension Expert and Ann Iwanchuk, our CUPE National Servicing Rep.
Click on following link: March 11 Special Meeting Update on Negotiations
- CUPE 1975 members are working harder. Students and square footage of buildings on campus have grown significantly over recent decades. But CUPE 1975 job numbers haven’t grown at all. Senior Administrator positions, on the other hand, have doubled over this time! What’s our reward for working harder? Your employer is proposing to gut your collective agreement with massive wage and pension concessions.
- The University can afford our proposal. Our pension plan currently costs less than one per cent of the University’s annual budget. The Chair of the University’s Board of Governors says that the University’s strong credit rating is “a key indicator of the University’s excellent financial management and financial situation.” Other pension plans on campus (even though they are significantly inferior plans) cost much more per member, because CUPE 1975 members are not paid as much as other workers on campus.
- The University’s proposed “signing bonus” is being used to gloss over a 3 year wage freeze. A lump sum like a “signing bonus” is paid only once, whereas the wage increases CUPE 1975 is proposing are paid every year for the rest of your career (including on a retroactive basis).
- CUPE 1975’s wage proposal would mean more retro pay than the “signing bonus” for the vast majority of members, with the real bonus of higher wages going forward for all.
- The University’s proposed wage freeze is a massive, permanent concession that will mean tens of thousands of dollars in losses over the working and retired lives of most CUPE 1975 members. Within a decade, the average CUPE member would have lost a total of about $25,000 from the gaping hole in their annual earnings left by the 0/0/0.
- The University wants to replace your modest but secure defined benefit pension with one of two inferior pension options. They want to shift all of the pension risks onto the backs of their hard working staff, who will be left not knowing what they will receive in pension each year of retirement. Insecure pensions earned going forward could be worth around 20-25% less than the modest but secure benefits workers currently earn. But since the University is pushing a non-guaranteed plan, these cuts could be even greater. Workers deserve more.
- The vast majority of public sector workers and University workers in Canada continue to be members of DB pension plans. The University of Saskatchewan should be no different.
- CUPE 1975 has proposed a full compromise which would share the risks of funding secure DB benefits between active members and the University, on top of saving the University millions each year in pension costs. Our reasonable compromise proposal was rejected by the University since it did not represent a full capitulation to their pension agenda.
- Past pension promises are under attack in Canada. Other governments have implemented or are considering implementing legal changes that would allow employers to walk away from pension promises they have already made to workers and retirees, replacing guaranteed pensions retroactively with insecure target benefit pensions. If the Government of Saskatchewan followed suit, the University could implement similar changes, unless CUPE 1975 has joint control of your pension plan. This is what we are trying to achieve in this round of bargaining. The stakes are incredibly high for all active and retired members.
- Our pension plan is sustainable. Most plans fell into deficit after the global financial crisis a decade ago, but our plan has been steadily recovering since and is now essentially back in balance. University pension costs have come down dramatically over the past year, with further reductions projected in coming years. When the plan was in surplus for decades prior to the financial crisis, the University was happy to take $28 million of “partial contribution holidays” over 17 years – essentially using our pension surplus to pay portions of their own required contributions to the plan.
Local 1975 is fighting to protect our pension plan. We are fighting for fair wage increases. We are fighting for you.
And with your help, we can win.
What can you do?
- Contact the administration
- Sign a postcard
- Wear CUPE swag every Friday to show your support
- Download and share this flyer
Please be advised that CUPE Local 1975 has had to postpone our bargaining session with the University that was scheduled for March 15th. Our National Representative had a death in her family and the funeral is on that day. We are in the process of securing an alternate date.
CUPE 1975 Members
Special Negotiations Update Meeting
Date: Monday March 11, 2019
Time: 4:30 pm
Room: 1150 Health Sciences Lecture Theatre (next to Tim Horton’s Coffee)
Pensions Discussions/Expert Mark Janson from CUPE National in attendance
(Come out, and meet Mark Jansen, the man behind the voice at our last update meeting)
Labour Board Hearings – impact on CUPE members
Questions from our Members
If you work a night shift:
- Be sure to inform your supervisors/assistant managers
- No need to sign in and sign out when attending the meeting
- You must sign the attendance sheet at the meeting; and
- Your supper break will be the same (6:00pm-6:30pm)
You MUST attend the meeting and sign the attendance record for you to be paid for your time.
It is CUPE’s desire to achieve a collective agreement at the bargaining table. CUPE has reached out to the University of Saskatchewan through the mediator, with a request to meet, and the employer has agreed to return to the bargaining table. It is CUPE’s intent to have discussions with the Employer about questions and concerns they have raised through their website about our Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan proposal. The meeting has been scheduled for March 15, 2019.
On Thursday, Feb. 28th the Labour Relations Board heard arguments from CUPE and the University regarding whether or not the U of S is an essential services employer. The Labour Relations Board determined they needed a full hearing before they could make that determination. Dates for the hearing have been scheduled for March 26-28.
A fair pension plan, reasonable wage increases. We deserve this.
Join us in the bowl (Nobel Plaza, near the Peter McKinnon Building) at noon to show your support for your union and send a strong message to the administration:
PAWS OFF OUR PENSION!
March 19th, Noon
Nobel Plaza, the Bowl
All are welcome to join us.
Please see attached for the Feb. 26th Media release and the Pension Brief to the Board of Governors which were discussed at the Feb. 26, 2019 meeting.
As many of you have heard or seen over the last few hours the CBC and the Star phoenix among others have reports on our special meeting/media conference held on Tuesday at noon. Thanks again to those of you who attended and we apologise to those of you that were unable to find a spot in the room. We were unable to source a larger room and we felt that we really needed to bring this fight to the decision makers of the University, Peter Stoicheff and the Board of Governors. The first half hour focused on bringing the media up to speed on our side of the story and to hear from other unions on campus – ASPA and the Sessional Lecturers’- about their thoughts on our struggles and the common problem all unions on campus are having in dealing with this administration. We didn’t have any “new information” to share with you the members but we did field a number of questions regarding the letters many of you received with the employers spin on their previous offers. This was not a new offer and it is not one we will vote on. There were many questions in regards to the proposed wage model. We had agreed at the bargaining table to listen to their proposal in regards to a new wage model but we are far apart on accepting or agreeing to anything. As many of you would recall at our open house a month ago we pointed out that using all the “employers” data, 42 per cent of you would be limited to a 1 per cent increment “at best” in the first year of this proposal, and we know that 42 per cent would increase each year afterwards. It would not take long before we would be at over 50 per cent of our membership receiving 1 per cent or less of increment annually. Of the 42 per cent of you impacted by “The University’s” offer, we have heard from a number of you that would be placed in the top of a phase with no wage increases, through the increment model or through negotiated wage increases for years. This model is not in our best interest to accept but you can see why the University wants to implement it. IT SAVES THEM MONEY. It decreases their payroll costs, just as implementing a different pension plan would SAVE THEM MONEY. Just as a signing bonus of 1500, or 3000 dollars would SAVE THEM MONEY. We are planning to host another Open House in March and we will present to you what the “dollar” difference will be instead of just percentages. Please follow our web page and FaceBook page for times and dates. We look forward to seeing you there and answering all your questions and concerns.
Your Negotiating Committee
Thank you to all the members who came out to support the press conference and receive clarity on some issues they had. A big thank you to the other locals unions on campus who came out and voiced their support for our fight and to acknowledge that they too, had similar issues and concerns with management at the University. As you all saw the University continues to present their same offer while trying to spin it as being a generous offer. We do acknowledge that they are creative in their spin we only wish they would spend as much time and energy on trying to achieve a fair and equitable contract to our members. We are looking at hosting more information meetings in various forms in the upcoming months to answer any and all questions and concerns you might have as we pursue our goal of negotiating a fair contract for all of you. Thanks again. Your support is appreciated.
Your Bargaining Committee.
Special meeting with a press conference. Further to this we will be having another special members meeting in late March for those who were unable to attend the last special members meeting. This meeting will address some outstanding issues pertaining to bargaining.
Tuesday, February 26th
Room 1B11 Health Sciences Building
Please be aware that registration must be done through the CUPE 1975 office, not through the link that is on the brochure. Call the office at (306) 966-7015 or email at email@example.com if you are interested in registering.
There are a limited amount of spaces available.
CUPE_1975_Education_Criteria_and_Application (please fill out and send to “CUPE 1975, 21 McLean Hall”)
We want to see your CUPE swag! Send a photo of yourself wearing CUPE gear to the Facebook group (CUPE 1975) for a chance to win Blades tickets. You will be notified by email on Thursday afternoon if you are a winner. Please be aware that photos will be posted on our Facebook group, (CUPE 1975) which is a closed group for members only. If you do not wish for your photo to be used you can privately email us the picture to enter the contest, but indicate you don’t want your image used.