Our Bargaining Priorities: Benefits
Bargaining for Better Benefits
The University of Toronto prides itself on its reputation as a top employer, devoting an entire page on its Human Resources website to various accolades. As part of its “positive work environment…and unique organizational culture,” the University offers a lengthy list of benefits that may attract prospective employees, including “excellent health and dental benefits,” professional development on-site, flexible work arrangements, childcare subsidies and tuition waivers for employee families, a pension plan, athletic centre memberships, counselling and Employee and Family Assistance services and discounted TTC Metropasses.
Members of Unit 3, however, enjoy a very meagre selection from this buffet of attractive benefits. Our Union has bargained, in the past, for the leaves included in our Collective Agreement, for Health Care Spending Accounts and for an optional Group RRSP.
However, access to these limited benefits is not equal across the unit and the value of the healthcare benefits falls short of meeting the needs of our members and their families. Therefore, when it comes to benefits, we aspire to significant gains in this round of bargaining, in terms of how healthcare is accessed, our HCSA allocations, and equality of benefits throughout position types. Below we will explore the benefits we have now and the gains we wants to see.
If you are a Unit 3 member and haven’t accessed your benefits, please go here: http://www.cupe3902.org/unit-3/benefits/
Have questions about how to best use your benefits? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at the union. Direct those question to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health Care Spending Account
During our bargaining survey, Unit 3 repeatedly let the Bargaining Team know that our members need better healthcare benefits. As we’ve moved through the bargaining process, this has remained a primary concern for our members, who often also support their families. The current Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) is insufficient.
Right now, Sessional Lecturers are entitled to a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) of $325 for every 0.5 FCE contract they teach to a yearly maximum of $1625. Hourly employees, including Writing Instructors, Sessional Instructional Assistants and Music Professionals are entitled to only $162 for their first 99 hours, $325 for contracts of between 100-299 hours, $487 for 300-449 hours, and $650 for anything above 450 hours.
The Bargaining Team is bringing proposals for improvements on two fronts. First, the value of the HCSA must increase. A single physiotherapy appointment for an occupational health concern like carpal tunnel syndrome costs an average of $90. The average fee for a psychotherapy session in Toronto is $110. A month’s supply of Truvada, a drug that virtually eliminates the risk of contracting HIV, costs about $870. What about members who need major dental work or a new pair of glasses? The current value of HCSA is not nearly enough to meet the needs of many of our members or their families. We’ve heard you: this can be a huge financial burden.
Many members therefore need to purchase defined benefits plans. About two-thirds of Unit 3 members are able to buy into spousal insurance plans or into the plans offered by other employers while others have to buy individual insurance coverage. Unit 3 members are currently able to apply their HCSA allotments to cover the premiums for spousal, individual or other employer’s insurance plans. This means that eliminating the HCSA is not the best option for much of our membership. Instead, we need more options to reflect the many health needs of our members.
To that end, the second proposal that the Bargaining Team will bring is simply that the Employer make it possible for Unit 3 members to buy into the University’s “excellent” Employee Benefits Plan.
Allowing our members the opportunity to buy into the plan offered by our Employer, the University of Toronto, is a logical and necessary step.
While we work at a university that should promote equality, we currently experience inequality in our benefits within our own unit. Hourly employees are unable to access some Sessional Lecturer-specific benefits, such as the Group RRSP. The current Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) has the same problem in terms of inequality of access. It is also completely insufficient considering that most of our membership considers their work at The University of Toronto their primary source of employment.
The Group RRSP allows Sessional Lecturers to contribute 5% of their pay to a Group RRSP, which the employer matches with 5% of their own. This amount increases for SL 3, giving them an additional perk. This is an important benefit for Unit 3 employees, as it allows our employees to contribute to their retirement even though our employment is precarious. But Sessional Lecturer positions are not the only positions that a Unit 3 employee may hold; we have Writing Instructors, Music Professionals, and Sessional Instructional Assistants. Many of these members work in these ranks for many years, if not for a career. Why should they not have access to a plan that helps them save for retirement?
As with the Group RRSP, the current HCSA model disadvantages Writing Instructors, Music Professionals, and Sessional Instructional Assistants. While Sessional Lecturers are granted $325 per half course, up to a maximum of $1625 per year, hourly employees are granted only $162 for their first 99 hours, $325 for hours between 100-299 hours, $487 for 300-449 hours, and $650 for anything above 450 hours. The maximum allowed for hourly employees is 40% that of which is allowed for Sessional Lecturers. Because of the way hourly contracts are structured, it would take an hourly employee many contracts—possibly working within multiple courses, teaching music lessons, working in various centres—to reach the 450 hour allotment.
Although Unit 3 members do a large amount of teaching at the University of Toronto, we also do not have access to some benefits and funds offered to other units, such as a childcare fund or benefit. We would also like to bring the benefits of our membership more in line with our faculty colleagues.
This round, we are committed to:
- Granting all members of Unit 3 equal access to all of the benefits the Union wins through collective bargaining
- Ensuring that Unit 3 members have access to benefits equal to those that we have won for the other units within our Local
- Bringing our benefits up to the level of other employees of the University.
This bargaining priority is among our most ambitious and we are determined to earn these gains for our Unit. Please support us in this mission. We need membership support for it to succeed.