Partner Mailing Update

One of the benefits of belonging to BCRTA is access to the Member Advantage program. From time to time members receive mailed offers from Advantage partners. We are working to improve this program.

Here are some answers to questions we have had about the mailings.

1. Mailing Lists and “Who Sent This?”

We will be moving to more clear labelling on envelopes, to indicate that this is a mailing generated as a benefit of membership, with offers for services from Members’ Advantage Partners. Instead of getting one offer, we may bundle them together as one mailing. We follow up with partners to gauge the effectiveness of mailings. We want members to receive offers that are relevant and useful.

Your information is always protected. Advantage partner firms are not given access to your information. We have an arrangement where the Advantage partner forward their ad to a professional “Mailing House” which prints the material, uses the mailing list that BCRTA manages, and sends the finished pieces through the mail. The only way the Advantage Partner learns about you and your details is if you choose to respond. Members can be assured that their privacy is always protected.

We are currently reviewing the language of all mailing materials for tone and clarity, and the packaging of the mailing. We want to make sure members understand clearly what the offer is, and the offer is the best it can be. The content will clearly state the nature of our relationship with the Advantage Partner.

Advantage Partners pay the cost of the mailing.

2. Why Bother Mailing?

Our Members’ Advantage Partner programs offer members good deals on products and services, and this is a benefit of membership valued by many. We have received a handful of emails expressing concerns about mailings, but many more members have responded positively, expressing interest in exploring the offerings. Positive responses outweight negative responses by a factor of twenty to one.

Our Advantage partnerships provide members with discount and preferred offers, and some send a portion of your purchases to support the work at BCRTA. You can see the numbers in each annual report. It amounts to many thousands of dollars each year. These funds help keep your annual membership fees at a very reasonable level.

So there are plenty of positive reasons to provide this service to the members who want it. But that doesn’t invalidate the concerns of those who prefer to not receive mailings, and we want to respect all members’ wishes. So that leads us to the next point.

3. How Do I Make it Stop?

We are developing some more detailed information to go into future mailings that explain the program and will offer members an easy way to shut off all future mailings of this kind. If you are not interested in getting these promotion pieces, we don’t want to bother you with them.

You can take action now, if you like. If you wish to not receive any mailings, please email office@bcrta.ca and simply say “Do not send me any further partner promotional mailings.” Please include your name and address so we can be sure to take you off the mailing list.

4. The Bottom Line

The BCRTA values your membership in our association and we value your direct and honest feedback about your experience. What sort of offers are helpful to you? Let us know. Your feedback helps us do better and be better. We measure “better” by the quality of our member experience. We want your experience to be the best it can be, and we trust that the steps we are undertaking will help do that.

Lobby on the Hill

For a number of years now the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC) has organized an annual Lobby on Parliament Hill, which involves about 100 lobbyists visiting as many Members of Parliament and senators as possible. Various interest groups, including health care policy scholars and practitioners across the country, and of course, members of the public, are engaged in the lobby.

These numbers and the participation were true for 2018 as well, although it was somewhat unfortunate that the lobby day this year (Feb 27) coincided with the release of the 2018 budget. Some appointments were cancelled. But at the end of the day, 85 lobbyists had 77 meetings with Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs, as well as Liberal, Conservative and Independent Senators. Some of the MPs who had to cancel their meeting have since been in touch with the CHC asking if they can meet with the advocates in their ridings.

President Patricia Clough and JoAnn Lauber came from BC on behalf of the BCRTA; and BC’s COSCO and Health Coalition were also represented. Brian Kenny, the president of the Canadian Association of Retired Teachers, engaged in the Lobby as well.

The CHC arranged for about 70 delegates/lobbyists to attend Question Period. As it was the first such session following the Prime Minister’s visit to India, the dynamics of Question Period were most revealing – the heckling, in particular, was excessive and non-productive.

This year’s Lobby theme was opposition to encroaching privatization of our public health care system. The extent of the concerns and gravity around privatization were highlighted.

The Canadian Health Coalition observed, “We noticed support [for opposing health care privatization] in all the parties, and disinterest by some Liberal and Conservative MPs. Overall, NDP MPs were supportive but not all to the same extent.”

BCRTA believes that engagement in this annual lobby exercise is worthwhile: it highlights cross-country concerns related to health care, it empowers advocacy that is often translated into action in the provinces represented in the event, and it serves BCRTA members for whom health care and well being remain of immediate interest.

The Canadian Health Coalition also has a Fact Sheet on for-profit healthcare.

More Online Resources in Development

After a successful launch of our new BCRTA website, we are moving toward a series of new services to better connect members to BCRTA programs and to their local branches.

Our consultant, Tim Anderson of Alphabet Communications, and the IT subcommittee have already released new features on the website for staff and the Board of Directors. Next steps will include the addition of log-in privileges and dedicated resources for our branch executives. The goal is to eventually grant secure, private access to all BCRTA members, giving them the ability to manage their account preferences themselves. Of course, our staff will always be available to support member needs as well.

Quite a few branches have their own websites, and we have been including their information in our branch listings at www.bcrta.ca/branches. Our IT team is actively developing a platform that will allow branches to make their websites fit smoothly within the BCRTA system, and to manage their own member lists through connection with the BCRTA membership list. The idea is to provide the necessary technical services, along with an easy-to-use website system, so that local branches can focus on putting out the content their members want to see without having to manage complex technicalities on their own. If your branch is interested in benefiting from this initiative, contact the office and let us know.

Communications Committee members are hearing much positive feedback about the improvements made to our website, and are excited about the further improvements that are in the works.
The PostScript and BCRTA Connections subcommittees have been developing policies, procedures and guidelines covering the solicitation, submission, editing and general quality of articles and other material for those publications. The subcommittees have also been researching fair rates and rules to govern ads in our publications—something new for the BCRTA.

A particular focus for the Communications Committee is how we can work together to attract new members, and to keep the members that we have through continually improving the attractiveness and helpfulness of our publications. If you, dear reader, have suggestions, we’d love to hear from you!

Bob Taverner
Communications Committee Chair

BCRTA Meets Active Teachers

The BCRTA had a very effective presence at the March Annual General Meeting of the BCTF. Our table was perfectly placed in terms of traffic flow, and we were able to speak with representatives of BCTF locals around the province. We may even have a new branch in the making!

In terms of our BCRTA Strategic Plan, we are working on a membership structure that will encourage pre-retirement teachers to join, participate in our benefits and Advantage Partner offerings and then make a seamless transition into BCRTA membership at retirement. This initiative is part of the development of a comprehensive membership orientation package detailing BCRTA member services and advantages of BCRTA membership.

We are looking for a possible name for our pre-retirement membership category. If you have any great ideas, please forward them to Steve at sdbailey504@gmail.com. Some names already suggested include “Pre-Flight Member”, “Active Associate Member”, “Priority Associate of the BCRTA”, “Member-in-Waiting”. We await your ideas not only for a name, but for any aspects of pre-retirement membership you might think of.

We are also continuing our “One Year Complimentary Membership” initiative during the coming year. This initiative has resulted in a significant growth in BCRTA membership during the past months.

We are pleased to announce the addition of Travel Agency Tribes to our Members’ Advantage Program. Watch for a link coming soon to the BCRTA website. Travel Tribes searches for the best travel deals across several providers and will be a good addition to our existing travel partners. Please be advised that First Memorial / Dignity Memorial is no longer partnered with the BCRTA and the BCTF. Existing contracts will be honoured.

We need your ideas in another membership area. We are looking at the melding of provincial and branch membership fees, moving to a new single fee rate for all members that includes branch membership at no extra charge. This would mean one standard membership fee with ability to join more than one branch, perhaps declaring one branch as their “home branch” for purposes of Branch Membership Grants. Any thoughts you have on this possibility are appreciated.

A big thanks to George Main, former Membership Committee member and current member of the Communications Committee for re-designing our Branch Membership Enhancement Guide for posting on the BCRTA website. The revised guide should be on-line sometime in May. Speaking of using our BCRTA website to enhance the BCRTA branch experience, please make sure you send a copy of your branch newsletter to Kristi at the BCRTA office, and plan to make it a part of your posting on your branch site on the BCRTA website so that all branches have access to your ideas for branch activities.

 

Steve Bailey, Chair, Membership Committee

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.