Changes to Retiree Benefits
Now more than ever people are approaching me or other OPSEU representatives and asking – “what is happening with the government’s changes to the retiree benefits?”
That is usually followed up by – “well, what is it that can be done to overcome this unfair change?”
“There was a time when the Government of Ontario considered itself a model employer. The promise of insured benefits in retirement was part of a covenant between government and the employees of the public service, the LCBO, and other agencies. Now, you’ve broken that covenant.”
As to the first part, you can read the information provided by OPSEU Corporate as items from Smokey and Eddie as to the effort being made to fight this unfair change. As for what can be done? That is up to each individual.
Were I someone who felt it necessary to retire by November 30th, 2016, I would file a grievance as I walk out the door, claiming that the unilateral change to a benefit that was part of the covenant between the employer and OPSEU employees for many years has been broken.
“This puts many members between a rock and a hard place. In many cases, they may decide to retire earlier than planned in order to avoid the extra cost for benefits. Then, if our grievances are successful, they will find themselves out of a job, all because of something that the government did not have the right to do.”
I would state that I am not being treated equally as are all OPSEU members entitled to be (from the Preamble of the CA) and I would also state that I have the right to expect to have my full retiree benefits paid for on my behalf as tens of thousands of current OPSEU retirees are benefitting from this covenant and no effort was made to engage the union or myself to work together should the employer deem that a change must happen.
“OPSEU members who began working in the Ontario Public Service, the LCBO, and other agencies of the government did so with the understanding that retiree benefits were a part of their overall compensation.”
I would know that my leaving signals the last opportunity to halt what would be an involuntary cessation of my OPS career which was predicated based on potential financial liability and harm had I remained in the OPS. I would state that, should the employer be found to have done wrong with the changes made, I would want to be fairly compensated for being pushed in to a decision that I should not have had to even consider. I would want compensation for what would be a reasonable continuation up to a retirement date I would have chosen (post 2017) and any lost monies Normal pay vs pension pay) returned to me as well as compensation for loss of quality of life and an affront to my dignity.
But, I am not leaving the OPS, I am going to be staying on and because of that, I will file a grievance shortly after January 3rd, 2017 if there are no positive changes to the plan the employer is pushing on us.
My grievance will state that I am now subject to the unwarranted and unfair conditions imposed upon me by the employer, simply for staying on in the OPS to continue my career. Much like above I will share how the employer provided tens of thousands of retired OPSEU members before me, with a benefit of value and that this benefit was “understood” by all as a condition of employment (proof of this is the same tens of thousands of retired members receiving the benefits at no cost) which is understood to be a covenant between each OPS member and the employer at the time they joined the OPS before this plan was put forward.
Again, I will claim that I am not being treated equally as were other OPSEU members who did retire pre-2016 and will not have to pay a cent for benefits. As well, the employer unilaterally changed the “accepted” terms of my contract when I signed on to be an OPSEU OPS employee without my consent or consultation. Should the grievance be upheld and it stated that the employer acted outside of their power to do so and probably with knowledge that it was wrong, I would seek compensation for having to endure a couple of years of unnecessary stress and aggravation as well a written confirmation that when I choose to retire because I am ready and it is the time for me of my choosing, I will have the same entitlements as those who left before 2016 have always had.
So the question is what should you do? The answer is really this. You should do what you believe is best. I have only shared my point of view based on my situation as a point of reference for your decision making process.
Just as Smokey shared below.
“P.S. If you are considering retiring early as a way to avoid paying for your post-retirement benefits, there is, unfortunately, no advice your union can give you to aid in your decision. Watch your email and the OPSEU website for updates on our interim relief application, but make sure you do not miss your own application deadline should you decide to retire.”
President, Local 468