Membership Means Savings

The BCRTA is living in interesting times!  Our First Year complimentary Membership initiative has resulted in a significant BCRTA membership gain this year. Keep spreading the word.

In order to enhance membership growth, the Membership Committee is developing some BCRTA merchandise for distribution, and is looking at new ways to extend membership eligibility.

We are also exploring the possible merger of provincial and branch membership fees. This would mean a standard BCRTA fee that includes membership in one branch of choice. Members could join a second branch for an additional fee. It is hoped that this arrangement could be part of the First Year complimentary Membership offer. We are also looking at promoting a “pre-retirement associate membership” to help transition retiring teachers into the BCRTA by giving access to our benefits and services. We’d appreciate any thoughts branches might have on these proposals. Send your comments to steve.bailey@bcrta.ca.

We also continue to explore new Members’ Advantage Program additions to expand our range of discounted goods and services available to our members. News on this as we complete partner arrangements. Our newest partners, HearingLife Canada and Merit Travel are quite popular while long-time partners such as Park’N Fly and Collette Travel remain a vital part of our program. Please remind your branch members to use their membership card to ask if they can arrange for discounts at local businesses. Remind them to download the Endless Savings and More App also. There are lots of savings to be had!

Branch Executives Please Take Note:

  • Announce to your members through your newsletter or at a branch meeting that Dignity Memorial / First Memorial has ended its Members’ Advantage partnership with both the BCTF and the BCRTA. All contracts completed to date will be honoured.
  • Your branch membership updates are available in Excel format at well as pdf from Laurie at the BCRTA office. Excel is much easier to work with, and new members added since the last report can be easily identified. Just place a request with Laurie. If you wish members’ membership number be included with the report, please ask specifically for that information.
  • From time to time, some of our Members’ Advantage partners may contact you about having a presence at a branch meeting. For example, Merit Travel has outstanding presentations as does Hearing Life Canada. Members Advantage partners can provide informative topics for branch gatherings. Please take advantage of their expertise and their willingness to provide a service to our members.

If you are thinking about joining BCRTA, or are a new member, please have a look at the Branches link of the BCRTA website. You will find information on branch executives across the province, and often the branch newsletters are linked to the site. Take time to read each other’s branch newsletters to get new ideas and see what’s going on across the province.

Green Shield Plan Questions

The BCRTA office staff are spending quite a bit of time dealing with questions and issues around Green Shield Canada (GSC) – the Extended Health Benefit provider for members in the Teachers’ Pension Plan. The move to Green Shield was a decision of the Teachers’ Pension Board of Trustees – not the BCRTA. The decision was made following an open competition; other insurance companies were invited to submit proposals and GSC won the competition. The BCRTA plays no role in this as we have no direct contractual relationship with GSC.

Please share this information:

  1. The GSC plan is like the former Blue Cross plan both in design and service. GSC has worked to ensure affordability by not increasing premiums this year and has also worked to be more precise, strict and consistent in interpreting the agreement and in accepting or denying claims.
  2. If a problem occurs:

a) Contact Green Shield directly and try to solve the problem with an agent of GSC.

b) If not satisfied escalate your demands by asking to speak to a supervisor. To request an escalation in service call toll free 1-888-711-1119 Mon. to Fri. 5:30am to 5:30pm or email: customer.service@greenshield.ca. Be specific.

c) If still not satisfied, access Green Shield’s Customer Complaint Resolution process at the following URL: http://www.greenshield.ca/en-ca/get-in-touch/we-re-happy-if-you-re-happy
You may also write the Teachers’ Pension Board. TPBT@pensionsbc.ca

Bill C27 – Still a Threat?

Bill C27 Update January 2018

Should the BCRTA still be concerned about Bill C-27? It had first reading on October 19, 2016 and lies apparently “dormant” in the federal legislative process. Some claim that the bill is “frozen” and poses no danger to us.

Yet, on November 1, 2017, when the NDP attempted to table a motion asking for the withdrawal of Bill C-27, the motion did not get enough support for consideration in the House of Commons.[1]  On January 11 of this year (2018) the Pension Commission of Manitoba raised the possibility of allowing for target-benefit and shared risk plans; the subsequent consultation will address pension regulatory issues including whether the rules should “allow for converting future benefits accruals only”.[2]  In other words, there is no assurance that current employees and retirees would not be affected by changes. The central idea of Bill C27 is still very much alive in governments across Canada.

What We Believe

The BCRTA Pensions & Benefits Committee believes that we must continue to fight Bill C-27. It poses a threat to Canadians who have pension security.  As a Committee member observed, “The intention for a law based on a bill such as Bill C-27 is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

What BCRTA is Doing

We have made a great start! The Board thanks all of you advocates who have actively opposed Bill C-27.  Since our request for action last September, your feedback to Laurie in our office indicates that as of January 23, 2018

  • Over 85 contacts have been made. In one case, about 10 constituents visited an MP, and in another 34 endorsed a letter to an MP. We estimate that about 115 BCRTA members have been in touch with MPs.
  • 34 different MPs have been contacted, including the Prime Minister (7 written contacts), the Minister of Finance (one face-to-face contact, and 10 written contacts) and Robyn Benson, National President Public Service Alliance of Canada (1 email letter).  You may see the list of contacts we have tracked, and get involved.
  • Contacts have included face-to-face visits, letters, email letters, and phone calls, including one to MP Carla Qualtrough, whose office indicated that other calls had been received.
  • An analysis of our website hits indicates that many visitors are looking at our documents related to Bill C-27.  The visitors are from all over our province and as far away as Ottawa!

We hope you will continue your advocacy efforts on this important issue, and ask that you please urge your fellow branch members to keep up the pressure. Our goal is still 25 contacts for each MP and to contact the 16 MPs have not heard from us at all.

It has been pointed out to us that our written letters and emails will be even more powerful if, when writing, we cc (copy) parliamentary members of the opposition parties. (Peter Julian has been recently appointed NDP Finance critic and welcomes being copied on your emails and letters: peter.julian@parl.gc.ca. Pierre Poilievre is Finance critic for the Conservative official opposition party: pierre.poilievre@parl.gc.ca.  David Hachey is the Green Party’s Finance critic: david.hachey@greenparty.ca. And, of course, Minister Bill Morneau is the Liberal MP responsible for Finance: bill.morneau@canada.ca). Let them know we’re concerned!

If we wish to have Bill C-27 withdrawn, we need to let all of our Members of Parliament know that on behalf of all working and retired Canadians, we oppose Bill C-27.

What You Can Do Today

Make your views known – tell your member of parliament you want your pension security to remain intact. When you do, please tell BCRTA’s Laurie Boyd, laurie@bcrta.ca, about your contacts — whom you’ve contacted, type of contact, whether a reply was received and other details you wish to share – we will be able to show our members’ actions on this file. We thank you for your efforts. We are aiming to make a difference.

[1]  http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ndp-want-liberals-withdraw-billc27-1.4382471

[2] http://www.benefitscanada.com/…/manitoba-pension-consultations-to-consider-target-benefit, shared risk plans

 

Membership Initiatives

This year’s “complimentary first year membership” campaign has resulted in a significant increase in BCRTA membership. The campaign is being extended in the wake of its success. The Committee is also looking at some other innovative strategies for membership enhancement.

We are working with Tim Anderson of Alphabet Communications to develop some promotional “swag” for BCRTA members and potential members. We are looking at different types of items. If you have any good ideas about the kind of things we should offer with the BCRTA logo as promotional items, please forward your suggestions to Steve Bailey at steve.bailey@bcrta.ca.

We also met with Susan Stern representing our Members’ Advantage partnership with First Memorial / Dignity Funeral Services for an update and with Mark Costales of Johnson Inc. to discuss our relationship with Johnson Inc. in the context of our Members’ Advantage Program. The new BCRTA website should make it significantly easier for members to access information about our Members’ Advantage partners.

One of our partners, Park ’N Fly, has announced a new corporate schedule which is on their website. Using Park ’N Fly still results in a good savings for BCRTA members. Get the Park ’N Fly BCRTA code from Laurie at the BCRTA office. Also please remind your Branch members to use their BCRTA membership card to see if they can get discounts from local businesses.

The Pension Corporation pre-retirement workshops have begun again around the province. Please check their website (bcpc.pensionsbc.ca) to see if there is a session planned for your Branch area. If you are able to participate in one of these sessions to promote BCRTA membership, please let Laurie in the BCRTA office know ahead of time so that she can forward materials for you to distribute. Remember to email Marla Madelung at tppeducation@pensionsbc.ca to let her know someone from your Branch will be attending.

George Main, former Membership Committee member and member of the Communications Committee is working on important updates for our Branch Membership Enhancement Guide. The revised Guide will be posted on the website for easy access. There are lots of practical ideas to support your Branch life.

 

Communications Update

The November meeting of the Communications Committee was largely about acknowledging the progress being made in BCRTA communications so far, and looking at ways in which to keep the progress happening.

Tim Anderson of Alphabet Communications, hired on an initial, part-time, 3-month contract by the Board, met before our meeting with the IT subcommittee, to continue work on the BCRTA website—looking at ways to further improve it, and to keep it current. They looked as well at ways in which to make it easy and practical to have branches linked to, and kept up-to-date on the website. Ways of individualizing and improving member ‘interactiveness’ with the website are also being considered.

Postings to the BCRTA Facebook page are suspended for a while, while we consider questions like who should post to it, and what the appropriate sorts of things are that should be posted on it.

The PostScript and Liaison Priorities subcommittees are now considering similar questions to the IT subcommittee, regarding who decides on the material going into our print publications, and what rules, if any, should be adopted regarding the types of articles, and ads, that are appropriate. The Committee was pleased to hear from these two subcommittees, how well they had been able to work with Kristi, in the office, and Tim Anderson, in putting together the recent issues of their respective publications.

Speaking of Liaison Priorities… the Committee recommended, and the Board agreed, that Liaison Priorities will henceforth be known as BCRTA Connections.

Through the IT subcommittee we came up with recommendations that the Board later adopted: to investigate the purchase of a small-office-sized, large-ink-tank printer, for the use of Directors (and members visiting the office), and to engage the services of LightStream Communications to ‘perform an assessment, and to prepare a proposal regarding the technological requirements of the BCRTA office’. The subcommittee is also taking a look at lower-cost, group access to Microsoft Office for staff and Directors.

We hope that you, when you visit our website, and read PostScript and BCRTA Connections, are pleased with what you see. And we hope that you will let us know if you think of ways in which we might make BCRTA communications even better.

The TPP Cost of Living Increase is 1.6%

While the Board of Trustees hasn’t approved any cost of living increase to our Teachers’ Pension yet, the Canadian Consumer Price Index showed an increase of 1.6%, year over year, for the month of September. Since we know that the Inflation Adjustment Account has a healthy balance we can predict that our pensions will be increased by 1.6% beginning at the end of January. And once cost of living increases have been made they become part of our guaranteed pension.

How is it possible that our pension is in a healthy, sustainable position when the government and news reports that Defined Benefit Plans, like our, are unsustainable? Active teachers and their School boards contribute sufficient funds during the active member’s career. When that money is invested prudently over the life time of each member it becomes enough to pay the lifetime pension. You might be surprised to know that about 80% of the pension money you receive comes from investment income. About 10% for your pension is your original contribution coming back, about 10% is your employer’s contribution coming back, but the huge majority of your pension is investment returns. Our pensions are not subsidized by the taxpayers.

Interestingly, another Defined Benefit Pension Plan – The Canadian Pension Plan – has recently been shown to be sustainable for the next 75 years.

Sustainability of the CPP has been examined in this report: http://www.cppib.com/documents/1457/CPPIB_Sustainability_Backgrounder_Nov2016EN.pdf

So why is Bill C-27 still on the agenda of the federal government? Read http://bcrta.ca/target/

How do cost-of-living increases to my pension work?

Every year the Teachers’ Pension Board of Trustees look at the September Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Canada. The September CPI measures inflation over the year – from September 2016 to September 2017. Then, if there is enough money in our Inflation Adjustment Account, the Trustees grant an increase to our pensions equal to the September CPI. The CPI for this past September was 1.6% and since our Inflation Adjustment Account is in a healthy position we expect that announcement from the Trustees soon.

The 2016 cost of living increase in our plan was 1%. The full cost of that increase was $106.2 million. When cost of living increases are made, those increases become part of our lifetime, guaranteed pension. That $106.2 million doesn’t just pay for the increased pensions during 2017, it pays for that 1% increase until each of the current retirees pass away.

This year’s cost of living increase will likely cost about $170 million and again, that will buy the 1.6% increase to all pensions currently in pay, guaranteed until each of us join the choir eternal.

Strategic Planning Session Held

The Board held a second, full-day strategic planning session this past week. We reviewed the process, compared our strategic plans with that of similar organizations, completed a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and began to review and update our goals. We were very capably led by Al Baliniuk, who besides being an expert on strategic planning, is the President of the Surrey RTA.

As often happens with this sort of exercise, we ran out of time before we ran out of work. So the Board is meeting again soon to complete the task. Watch for more communications and the details of our work near the end of January.

Thanks to those who submitted feedback on our plan. We continue to welcome your thoughts, ideas and question. Send them to Laurie@bcrta.ca.

Record Growth in Membership

BCRTA has set a record of 786 new members joining our association this year to date, thanks to our one-year free membership offer and our I-Pad contest. Johnson Insurance provided 10 I-Pad Mini tablets and all new members were entered in a draw to win one.

We congratulate these winners:

Shirley Wong, Surrey Branch
Laurie Faulkner, Sunshine Coast Branch
Vicki Hickenbotham, Coquitlam Branch
Doris Kuehn, South Okanagan Branch
Ann Kratzer, Surrey Branch
Stephen Fairbairn, Elk Valley Branch
Linda Wiens, Langley Branch
Jeannette Tabb, Delta Branch
Elliott, Kim D., Coquitlam Branch
Janice Gladish, Campbell River Branch

New members are welcome to join BCRTA and will receive free membership until September, 2018. However, the free I-Pad contest is now closed.

BCRTA thanks the iPad Giveaway sponsor:

COSCO – Promoting Healthy Living

Our BCRTA focus on well-being complements our affiliated group, the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC.  COSCO Health and Wellness Institute offers free PowerPoint presentations to senior groups in BC.  The brochure is available at www.coscoworkshops.org.  If you are interested in training as a presenter please contact Barb at barb.mikulec@bcrta.ca.