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Regarding the Retiree Benefit Plan & CEP

Dear CULE Member,

In the course of the Communication Energy and Paperworker’s (CEP) raid on our members in Ontario your Executive has received many queries and concerns.

What would be the impact on the Retirees Benefit Plan in the event CEP displace CULE as the bargaining agent for Regional Office staff in Ontario?

In these circumstances CEP would inherit our collective agreement as it applies to these folk. This includes MOA #21 which outlines the plan. At the next round of bargaining CEP could try to modify the plan by adding additional payments to by the Employer to the individual retiree’s health spending accounts. Currently that is $1800 a year for every year from the date of retirement to age 65 for any member in receipt of a pension. They could also try to add increased contributions by both the Employer and the unit as a whole to the pooled funds. Other options would be to trade this benefit for something else or reduce it considerably in exchange for something else.

Whatever, CEP would do at the table is anyone’s guess at this point. However, one thing is clear. The amount of money which has already accumulated in the pooled account (and it presently is in excess of $400,000) would no longer be available to the staff in the Ontario Regional Offices. This means that even if CEP were to keep the same language and set up their own trust account for the pooled monies, it would take many, many years for the pooled funds to approach the levels presently enjoyed by CULE members. Essentially, CEP would have to start from the beginning.

How do the individual health spending accounts work? The MOA does provide a reasonably clear explanation but perhaps a real life example would cast a bit more light on the machinations of the plan.

Regional Representative X retires after 30 years service with the PSAC. For each year that she retires before she reaches 65 the PSAC will provide her with $1800. This will go into an individual health spending account for X and her partner. This money can be used in a number of ways, either to spend directly on medical, dental or vision care services or to pay premiums for another plan or for a plan very similar to that which X enjoyed while employed with PSAC. There are a number of different combinations of plans which can be tailored to the needs of X and her partner. At the end of the day the $1800 may be all used up. If premiums exceed the $1800 X may have to pay an additional amount as top up. If all the $1800 is not used in any given year, the unused monies left in the individual health spending account is deposited in the pooled fund. In Regional Representative X’s case her partner required a special medical device, the cost of which greatly exceeded the $1800 available each year. When CULE became aware of this situation it advised Coughlin, the plan administrator, to allow this particular claim. This was paid out of the pooled funds, not the individual health spending account for Representative X. In this way, the pooled funds were used to supplement the normal benefits provided in the individual accounts.

Were CULE to be displaced By CEP in Ontario, someone in Representative X’s situation would not have access to those pooled funds because they belong exclusively to CULE members, not to CULE members who have gone over to CEP. They would be forced to find the money elsewhere or pay for the medical device out of their own pocket, themselves.

What is critical to understand here is that how the pooled money is used is determined largely by CULE, itself. The Employer has no say. Accordingly, CULE could use some of the pooled money to extend benefits beyond 65, or it could use some of it to negotiate with the Employer a joint plan to cover CULE members who live in provinces where health benefits are not available. The only limitations are financial – the pool needs to be fairly large to ensure that the pooled fund is not put at risk.

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The results of the vote to have a vote are in: 94 eligible to vote (CULE I – 57/CULE II – 37) 59 Ballots cast 23 – No 36 – Yes Watch for more information to come.

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