NEWS

April 24, 2018

BCGEU’s telephone town hall on Public Service Pension Plan changes - BCGEU

On Tuesday, April 10th we hosted a telephone town hall from the Victoria Area Office to talk with members about the changes to the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) that were implemented April 1, 2018. We were joined in the VAO by representatives from the BC Pension Corporation and the Pension Secretariat. This bulletin summarizes some of the key points that came up during the town hall and provides resources for members to continue educating themselves and each other as we move forward under the new plan design.

We want to thank every one of the more than 3,000 members who participated in the town hall. We know that not everyone who had a question or a comment about the changes was able to participate and even those who did dial in may not have had a chance to speak with us directly but we appreciate that you all took time out of your busy lives to get informed.

These plan changes will directly impact every member of the BCGEU in the PSPP and we know that the vast majority of them will be better off under the new plan. In fact:

  • The average member's pension will be 37% higher under the new plan than it would have been under the old plan.
  • 95% of members retiring in next 5 years will get a higher pension under the new plan than they would have under the old plan.
  • 99% of members retiring in next 2 years will get a higher pension under the new plan than they would have under the old plan.

But we also know change can be stressful and changes that impact family finances and retirement plans are particularly stressful. Our goal in hosting the town hall was to help ease that stress by making sure members have access to accurate information about the changes and reliable advice moving forward.

Whether you were on the call or not, we hope you'll find this bulletin informative and we encourage you to take advantage of the resources available to help you understand how the pension changes will impact you and your family. We would also ask that you help us by sharing this bulletin with colleagues in your workplace and with friends who are members of the BCGEU. The more people have access to the facts, the better.

RESOURCES

- If you didn't have a chance to participate in the town hall, you can listen to an audio archive of the entire event here:

- If you have specific questions about how the changes will impact your individual pension plan, please contact the BC Pension Corporation.

- For other pension related questions, you can contact the BCGEU at pensions@bcgeu.ca

- There is a pension plan Illustrator tool on the PSPP website that can estimate your pension under the new rules. As of May 1, 2018 there will be a pension calculator tool available. For more information, visit: https://pspp.pensionsbc.ca/

To view the Pensions Corp presentation that explains this change, please click here.

 

TIMELINE OF PLAN CHANGES

    • 2009: The BCGEU and the provincial government agree to discuss potential changes to the plan with the understanding that once a tentative agreement is reached the BCGEU would have 18 months to communicate changes to members.

    • 2017 (late December): The Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) Board notifies plan partners—the BCGEU and the provincial government—of their intention to change the plan and gives plan partners 30 days to provide input. In spite of the tight timeline the BCGEU decides to support the interests of members by providing input rather than letting the Board make changes in isolation.

    • 2018:
      • The BCGEU meets the Board’s 30-day deadline and proposes changes that would improve the pensions of the vast majority of BCGEU members by removing unfair subsidies that benefitted the highest income earners in the plan at the expense of lower wage earners, including BCGEU members.
      • The Board accepts the BCGEU’s changes but announces that the 18 month window for communicating with members is no longer an option and that changes must be implemented by fiscal year end, March 31, 2018.

 

FACTS ABOUT PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS

  • The Public Sector Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) explicitly bars collective bargaining of pensions.

  • The Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) Board has responsibility for designing and implementing plan changes. The PSPP board has the option of requesting input from plan partners on design changes. However, input from plan partners is not binding on the Board.

  • Between the start of the BCGEU timeline in 2009 and the implementation of the changes on March 31, 2018, two other large public sector pension plans—the college plan and the teachers’ plan—implemented changes similar to those proposed by the BCGEU.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PLAN CHANGES

    • Accrual rates
        • The old plan design included two accrual rates –1.35% on earnings below the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) of $55,900, and 2% on earnings over the YMPE. This meant that under the old plan lower wage earners-such as BCGEU members-received a lower percentage of income as pension relative to higher wage earners-such as excluded managers who were also part of the plan.
    • The new plan design levels the playing field by applying a single, higher accrual rate for all pensionable income.

    • The impact will be that all BCGEU members will see an increase in their accrual rate and thanks to that increase members working at or below the YMPE will see a 37% increase in their lifetime pension on service after April 1, 2018.

 

    • Retroactivity
      • The accrual rate for service from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2018 for all earnings below YMPE will be retroactively increased from 1.35% to 1.65%. The impact will be a 22.2% increase in lifetime pensions on a go-forward basis, from October 1, 2019.

 

  • Early retirement, the Rule of 85, and the bridging benefit
    • All service up to March 31, 2018 is governed by the old plan rules, including the bridging benefit and the Rule of 85.

    • Under the new plan, the Rule of 85 and the bridging benefit will not apply to service accrued after March 31, 2018. However, members still have the right to retire with an unreduced pension as early as 55 years of age with 35 years of service.
      • The long-term impact of the loss of Rule of 85 and the bridging benefit is offset by a higher total pension value for BCGEU members.
      • Members who need the higher pre-65 pension value that was provided by the bridging benefit under the old plan can use a temporary annuity to access some of the higher post-65 total pension value of the new plan before they turn 65. We have asked the Pension Plan to make this process easier for members to understand.

    • Under the new plan design the 6.2% "early retirement reduction factor" applies to service after March 31, 2018 and is "benefit neutral". That means members who can afford to retire early will pay a fair cost to do so and will no longer be subsidized by those who must continue working.

 

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President

 

Paul Finch
BCGEU Treasurer



UWU/MoveUP

April 23, 2018

Celebrating Medical Laboratory Professionals Week: April 22-28 - BCGEU

Please join us this week in celebrating medical laboratory professionals! 

Medical laboratory professionals are highly trained health care professionals who provide laboratory test results required for the prevention, detection and treatment of illness and disease. When physicians and other health care providers are looking for answers, they depend on laboratory test results to accurately diagnose and treat illness and monitor patient health.

According to the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, the medical laboratory profession, as a group, is the fourth largest health care profession in Canada, and medical laboratory professionals generate over 440 million test results each year.

"The BCGEU is proud to represent hundreds of lab workers across the province," said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. "These dedicated, highly-trained professionals play a critical role in our health care system and this week is a perfect opportunity to say thank you to all of them for delivering vital services that British Columbians rely on."



UWU/MoveUP

April 23, 2018

Family Event – Miner's Memorial in Cumberland - BCGEU

This year Miners Memorial at Cumberland is going to be a huge event for union members. It is unfortunate that we were unable to secure Miracle Beach for the annual family picnic and so in lieu of that, we are encouraging members and their families to attend the BBQ dinner and other festivities on Saturday June 23rd.

Go to https://minersmemorial.ca/ to get a rundown of events. The best part is from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. we will walk with the BCGEU RV in a procession that signifies the funeral procession of Ginger Goodwin, an activist who died for the union cause. Afterwards there is a BBQ with lots of sing-alongs! The Union is covering your donation to the BBQ which will be held at the Cumberland Village Park. Walk in the procession or watch, but all are welcome.

 

In solidarity

 

Area 02 Cross Component Committee


Download FYI Miners Memorial.pdf

UWU/MoveUP

April 20, 2018

MSDPR’s Acceptance of Ombudsperson’s Holding Pattern Report Is a Major Victor...

The BCGEU applauds the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction's (MSDPR) willingness to accept most of the recommendations of B.C.'s Ombudsperson Jay Chalke's special report Holding Pattern: Call Wait Times for Income and Disability Assistance.

"We're pleased that the new government has acknowledged the long-standing problems surrounding the MSDPR centralized phone line and is committed to addressing some of the underlying issues," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "However, we believe that all of the Ombudsperson's recommendations should be implemented and we're hoping to meet with Minister Shane Simpson in the near future to discuss how we can work together to continue improving services for British Columbians and working conditions for our members."

This report, which investigates the long wait-times and restricted service of the ministry's centralized phone system, is the result of repeated complaints submitted by the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre on behalf of nine social service agencies across the province. 

The complaint draws, in part, on the findings of the BCGEU's Choose Children report which outlines the concerns and experiences of frontline workers in the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI, as it used to be called under the BC Liberal government) as well as community based social services agencies. It says that child, youth and family workers face massive caseloads, severe staffing shortages, poorly designed service delivery and a lack of resources. 

Workers at MSDPR have also voiced concerns to the BCGEU about the worsening of working conditions as a result of budget cuts, office closures and the centralized phone system. Workers are subjected to increased levels of stress and exposed to abuse by vulnerable clients who are no longer receiving adequate services. 

This, combined with pay that is lower than the equivalent in other provinces, has also led to a low retention rate for Employment and Assistance Workers (EAW), which has made it difficult for the ministry to maintain appropriate staffing levels. 

The Ombudsperson's report confirms problems the BCGEU has pointed out for years regarding the long wait times and inadequate service levels experienced by the province's most vulnerable people when calling into the ministry's centralized phone system. 

In this report, the Ombudsperson made 9 recommendations for MSDPR to improve services. These recommendations include:

• Reporting wait time statistics to increase transparency on the ministry's progress in addressing this problem
• Hiring more EAWs to reduce wait times and provide adequate levels of service
• Phasing out the use of limited service techniques used to reduce the amount of time EAWs spend on each call, which resulted in reduced service levels for people seeking assistance

Related Resources:

Choose Children: A case for reinvesting in child, youth and family services in British Columbia
Wait times for welfare phone line soar
Service reductions at Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation prompt complaint to Ombudsperson

 



UWU/MoveUP

April 20, 2018

BCGEU partners with SumOfUs on improving corporate responsibility through inv...

The BCGEU is leading the way in the labour movement when it comes to responsible investing. Ahead of the 2015 global oil price crash, the union divested its strike fund and general reserves from fossil fuel equities and not only preserved, but increased the value of its holdings. Now, the BCGEU has partnered with non-profit organization SumOfUs to advocate for greater corporate responsibility among companies in its portfolio to further improve the value and sustainability of those investments. 

"As a union we need to make sure that funds our members count on, such as the strike fund, are financially healthy and this requires careful and responsible investment decisions," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "Calling for greater corporate responsibility as a shareholder is not only financially prudent, but it allows us to pursue our values as a labour union as well." 

On behalf of the BCGEU, SumOfUs will file several proposals over the summer for a vote by shareholders at Annual General Meetings of Canadian companies. These proposals will call for greater fairness in corporate governance and increased scrutiny around human rights and labour practices as well as the impacts of deforestation. 

SumOfUs is a global non-profit organization that engages an online community of 14 million people to hold big corporations accountable on issues such as climate change, workers' rights, discrimination, human rights, animal rights and corruption.



UWU/MoveUP

April 19, 2018

Welcome to Your Union: A New Resource Guide for BCGEU Members

Introducing BCGEU's brand-new member guide! Welcome to Your Union is a compact yet informative guide, written for all BCGEU members, whether new to the union or not.

The guide outlines key information members need to get the most out of union membership such as educational opportunities, ways to get more involved, the role of shop stewards and the right to workplace safety.

It also describes the organizational structure of the union, the components, and how to contact area offices across the province.

There are also instructions on how to access BCGEU's member portal, a web-based resource that is customized to members' specific needs based on geographic location and occupational component. On the portal you can easily locate your collective agreement, get union news and updates, find local events and campaigns, and read bargaining and component news relevant to your worksite.

Watch for printed copies inserted in the next issue of The Provincial. Members can also get copies through their local area office, or you can download a PDF of the guide here.



UWU/MoveUP

April 16, 2018

Honouring killed and injured workers on Day of Mourning – April 28 - BCGEU

In 2017, 158 workers lost their lives to workplace injury or disease. Please join us in honouring their memory on the Day of Mourning, April 28.

Many BCGEU members will be attending Day of Mourning events in communities around our province. Some members will be there to honour and remember their co-workers and family members. Many will be there to show solidarity and empathy for those who have been affected by the death of a worker. 

Experience tells us that every one of these 158 deaths and injuries could have been prevented. There is much work to be done to improve regulatory requirements and enforcement. The BCGEU, along with the BC Federation of Labour and other unions, continue to lobby government and the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) to increase prevention activities, to write more orders, levy more penalties and launch more criminal prosecutions against negligent employers. 

Every year the BCGEU and Labour Councils organize activities in their workplaces and communities to commemorate April 28. BCGEU members are encouraged to attend Day of Mourning events in their communities. Members are also encouraged to take a moment on April 28 to remember the workers who have lost their lives or have been injured in the course of their workday.

Since 1997, the BC Federation of Labour, the Business Council of British Columbia, and WorkSafeBC have co-hosted a public commemorative ceremony for the Day of Mourning in Vancouver, B.C. In 2001, WorkSafeBC, the BC Federation of Labour, and the Business Council of British Columbia dedicated a permanent workers' memorial in the Sanctuary in Hastings Park, Vancouver.

There are approximately 45 permanent worker memorial sites sponsored by WorkSafeBC in British Columbia.

• For a list of ceremonies taking place in British Columbia on April 27 and 28 visit http://www.dayofmourning.bc.ca/

Download a PDF file of the new Day of Mourning poster here

 



UWU/MoveUP

April 13, 2018

Government to Recognize PTSD & Mental Health Claims for First Responders: Cor...

The BCGEU welcomes the provincial government's announcement that first responders including Sheriffs and Correctional Officers will receive greater access to mental health support. 

On Wednesday, BC Labour Minister Harry Bains announced amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. These amendments -- called a presumptive clause -- will be introduced this week and, if approved by the legislature, will add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders to a recognized list of presumptive conditions associated with specific types of jobs. This means that when first responders, including sheriffs and correctional officers, who experience job-related trauma are diagnosed with a mental disorder, they will be able to get assistance without providing proof that the injury was related to their work.

"I applaud the proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act announced by Minister Bains, building on the work begun by Minister Simpson and supported by Minister Darcy. Making mental health, including PTSD, a presumptive condition is a long overdue show of common sense and compassion for first responders," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

Seven other provinces and territories in Canada, including Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, already have a presumptive clause to protect first responders suffering from PTSD and mental illnesses. "This change is an important step but there is more work to be done to protect the men and women that protect our province. So while we recognize and appreciate progress, it's critical that we also stay focused on the road ahead," added Smith.

BCGEU would like to acknowledge the work of long-time BCGEU member Robert Gagnon, whose efforts helped make this possible. Gagnon, a Corrections Officer and Canadian Forces veteran, walked from Prince George to BC's Legislature last summer to raise awareness and support for veterans and first responders who suffer from PTSD. 

"It's important to stay focused on how this change happened. Make no mistake, we are here today because of the efforts of activists. Activists like Robert and everyone else who raised their voice, told their story, and kept the pressure on in their own way. Activists make a difference. I'm lucky to be surrounded and inspired by them every day," said Smith.
 

Background


Read the government press release here.

Hansard script (recognizing the work of Correctional Officer Robert Gagnon):

Hon. H. Bains
I'm really pleased today to recognize a number of first responders seated in the gallery. Gord Ditchburn, of the B.C. Professional Firefighters Association; Cameron Eby, Robert Parkinson, Sophia Parkinson and Lindsay Kellosalmi, from the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.; Jeremy Kerr, who's a sheriff; and Dean Purdy, who's a corrections officer. 
Joining them is a special guest, another corrections officer who some of you may remember from last summer. Robert Gagnon has been called "the man who walked through the flames for PTSD" - and indeed he did. Robert is a former corporal with the Canadian Armed Forces, who now works as a corrections officer for Prince George.
 
Following his military career, Robert found himself struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, and through his own struggles, he became aware of how many others, including first responders, were also needing services and support. He decided to do something about it, and last summer, Robert set off on the journey of his life, as he walked solo from Prince George to the front steps of this building to raise awareness around PTSD.
 
He reached Victoria on July 25, after walking about 30 kilometres per day. Along the way, he raised funds to help support an equine therapy ranch for veterans in Quesnel and a facility in Kamloops that works with first responders and veterans with PTSD.
He's here to see some of the fruits of his labour, as we make an announcement related to supporting those kilometres per day.
 
Along the way, he raised funds to help support an equine therapy ranch for veterans in Quesnel and a facility in Kamloops that works with first responders and veterans with PTSD.
He's here to see some of the fruits of his labour as we make an announcement related to supporting those who develop mental disorders as a result of trauma in their workplaces. I thank him for his tireless efforts and wish him all the best as he travels the road to recovery. Would the House please join with me making him and all other heroes in the gallery very welcome.

Photos from Wednesday's event at the Legislature:

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UWU/MoveUP

April 13, 2018

Government action for renters and tenants a welcome relief in middle of housi...

VANCOUVER –

This week the government of British Columbia announced new initiatives to strengthen protections for renters. BCGEU welcomes these long overdue changes, and applauds the government for continuing to take initiative on the housing file.

"Increasing protections for those facing eviction is an important step in making B.C. more affordable for renters," noted BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The new provisions will provide tenants more time to dispute evictions, and the new penalties for landlords who exploit the rules will greatly improve accountability. These are all good concrete steps to protect vulnerable renters."

New relief for renters in British Columbia is much-needed. Many families have been at the mercy of an overheated housing market. Low vacancy rates and underfunding of the Residential Tenancy Branch have made living in B.C. more expensive, housing situations precarious, and assistance hard to access.

These actions are a clear sign that political leaders are starting to respond to the public desire for an affordable British Columbia. Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are counting on Premier John Horgan and his ministers to stabilize their housing situation and they should be encouraged by these actions. 

"We look forward to the implementation of the changes announced, and the work of the Province's new Rental Housing Task Force. We recognize the importance and timeliness of the work of the task force, and look forward to establishing a dialogue in the coming weeks and months to support action on affordability." said Smith.

The BCGEU, in cooperation with CUPE 1767 has been advocating for strong action on housing through the Affordable BC campaign. Released in November 2017, Affordable BC, is a plan to address speculation and invest in neighbourhoods to solve the affordability crisis. Thousands have already signed online in support of the plan to tackle the housing crisis. Full details of the plan are available at www.affordablebc.ca

The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) represents information and administrative workers at the Residential Tenancy branch as well as more than 74,000 workers in more than 550 bargaining units throughout British Columbia. 

 



UWU/MoveUP