Teacher Welfare Committee

    

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WORTH KNOWING

COVID-19 and Your Pension

Teachers need to fight this crisis together, not alone.

In the fall of 2019, teachers learned that Bill 22 would require the transfer of all assets of the Alberta Teachers’ Pension Plan to Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). For over 75 years, the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) managed the assets of Alberta teachers. Alberta teachers continue to oppose the transfer of the fund assets to AIMCo and have made many efforts to protest this unilateral decision.

Now, in the same school year, another crisis has hit our pension—a health crisis. COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty in the markets similar to what occurred during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008–09 or the dot-com crash of 2001-02. This may alarm some teachers to the point where they consider pulling their contributions (commuted value) from the fund to invest on their own.

There are many risks you accept if you withdraw your commuted value from the pension fund:

1.     You must first resign your teaching position with no guarantee of being reemployed.

2.     You will take on all the risk of the investment performance of your fund. This includes the risk of being too conservative and not realizing enough growth to provide for your retirement.

3.     Your pension pays you and your spouse until you both die. If you invest on your own, you could outlive your money.

4.     Your assets are at the mercy of the markets. While a large pension can ride out a crisis over the long haul, as an individual, you may have a more difficult time absorbing market shock. In addition, the risks of the pension plan are shared by over 40,000 teachers, so it is not just your risk.

5.     Investment costs can be many times higher with an individual portfolio compared to what it costs ATRF to invest your pension. In 2019, ATRF paid only 18¢ per $100 of assets. In comparison, most mutual fund management fees exceed 2 per cent.

This is a time to remain with the security of your pension rather than risk the uncharted waters of investing on your own. By September 2020, your pension contributions will have decreased three times in the last six years, yet your pension will still provide the same benefit upon retirement. Time has shown that good days and upswings far outweigh bad days and downswings. The question is, do you want to risk investing on your own?

What can you do?

Teachers concerned about the impacts of Bill 22 can e-mail their member of the legislative assembly (MLA) using the websitewww.handsoffmypension.ca.

You can also write or call your MLA directly and request that they reverse their decision on Bill 22. If your MLA is a member of the opposition, write to the minister of finance and the premier with a copy to your MLA. If your MLA is a member of government, copy the leader of the opposition so they are aware of how many complaints are being sent.

WORTH SHARING

Ask for a meeting with your MLA to voice your concern and request that they reverse their decision on Bill 22. The government has reversed some decisions, and now is the time to make your voice heard and increase the pressure to leave your pension with the ATRF. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) Supports

With everything that is going on with the COVID-19 situation, there is no doubt that this is a challenging time for everyone. The EFAP, administered through Homewood Health, provides completely confidential support services to eligible ASEBP covered members and their dependents, free of charge. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or could use someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Homewood Health is offering online and over-the-phone assistance, 24 hours per day 7 days per week. The EFAP includes supports like:

•     personal counselling

•     stress management

•     family support services

•     dealing with workplace change

•     financial counselling

•     relationship solutions

 

You can access EFAP services several ways:

•     By App - Homewood Health e-Ap (search “e-Ap” in your phone’s app store)

•     By telephone:

 

English contact numbers

1-800-663-1142

TTY: 1-888-384-1152

International (call collect): 604-689-1717

 

French contact numbers

1-866-398-9505

ATS: 1-866-433-3305

Appels internationaux (frais virés acceptés) : 514-875-0720

Accessing Homewood Health Services

However, ASEBP’s EFAP provider, Homewood Health, is currently experiencing high call volumes and you may have difficulty getting through to them the first time. Additionally, some people are reporting difficulties reaching Homewood Health because of connection issues related to general cellular network instability.

 

If you are having trouble getting through, try:

•     to connect more than once—keep trying

•     calling during “off-peak” times, such as mid-day, or outside regular business hours

•     connecting using your landline, if you have one

•     calling using a cellular phone on a different network than yours (some networks are experiencing connectivity issues)

•     connecting using the local number for Homewood (604-689-1717), instead of the toll-free number. Please note that long distance charges may apply, depending on your plan

 

As call volumes are increasing, Homewood Health has been making active efforts to ensure their centers are being adequately staffed so call volumes can be managed and wait times mitigated as much as possible. As Homewood Health is limited in how treatments can be delivered (there are no in-person supports currently available), please understand that they are making every effort to secure everyone who calls the earliest possible appointment. 

 

Thank you for your patience, and if you are trying to get through, please keep trying—their intake consultants are ready to help.

 

For further up-to-date information on COVID 19 from ASEBP, visit:

https://asebp.ca/covid-19?fbclid=IwAR1doBSOAWUlEcSKsZ4NTYatAkfTpg_ByQr_mzlfR-Jqwdq-FGPD44k_whY

 

Alberta Blue Cross, COVID 19 Scams. Protect yourself.

https://blog.ab.bluecross.ca/blog/2020/04/03/beware-of-covid-19-related-fraud/?fbclid=IwAR32MuHZMtl-VPWFKxhck4s10l-7XnD3zAAwYCJMt-u8hl2cPHoKcen-z9c

 

WORTH SHARING

These are challenging times for everyone . The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), administered through Homewood Health, provides completely confidential support services to eligible ASEBP covered members and their dependents, free of charge. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or could use someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out. English 1-800-663-1142 French 1-866-398-9505. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Central Table Bargaining and COVID‑19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of people’s lives, both personally and professionally. It has also affected the Central Table bargaining process for the upcoming round of negotiations. Prior to the advice on limiting social interactions and the working from home recommendations made by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the Alberta Teachers’s Association (Association) and Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) were working from the timelines in the legislation governing bargaining, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA). The deadlines require negotiations on the List of All Matters (LAM) to commence not less then six months and not more than eight months before the expiry of the existing collective agreements. Had PECBA’s timelines been followed, as written, it would have placed the earliest start of List bargaining on Friday, 2020 02 28 or the latest on Thursday, 2020 04 30. 

Given the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency by Premier Kenney on Tuesday, 2020 03 17, and the ensuing upheaval caused by COVID-19, the parties have agreed to extend the timelines for List bargaining from the end of April until June 30. This allows us to identify better and represent the needs of members. The Association extended the timelines of the bargaining needs survey to 2020 03 30 and is developing other methods of gathering input suitable for these times of social distancing. We continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidelines set out by the CMO. While this extension is helpful, we are mindful that PECBA and the Labour Relations Code will only allow us to delay for so long. TEBA could push us to the table and we need to be in the best position to represent teachers.

WORTH SHARING

The timelines for the first phase of Central Table bargaining, List of All Matters bargaining, have been extended to June 30 as a result of Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency caused by COVID-19. The Association is monitoring the situation and will be reviewing best practices to allow the process to continue while ensuring members of the Central Table Bargaining Committee are safe. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The federal government will be automatically moving everyone who has applied for employment insurance (EI) benefits since March 15 to CERB.

       This means that an individual who applied for and started receiving an EI benefit after March 15 will start receiving the CERB at $500 a week, which could result in a greater benefit amount.

       However, this also means that those receiving the maximum EI benefit of $573 a week will get a pay cut, down to the CERB level of $500 a week.

While EI beneficiaries are receiving CERB payments, they will not be using up any EI-eligible weeks for payments. Those “EI weeks” are suspended.

       This means that if an individual comes to the end of the CERB benefit period of four months, the individual could resume receiving EI benefits for however many remaining weeks that person was eligible to receive benefits prior to receiving a CERB cheque.

       In most cases, the maximum number of weeks an individual can receive EI benefits varies from 14 to 45 weeks and is based on regional labour force characteristics.

Those who had applied for and were receiving an EI benefit prior to March 15 will stay in the EI stream and continue to receive the benefits they’ve been receiving as per EI rules that were in place at the time they were approved.

***Some of the pre-March 15 EI beneficiaries could have been financially better off with the CERB (for example). There is some acknowledgement among government officials that there will be an attempt to correct those inequities once the programs are up and running.

WORTH SHARING

The federal government will be automatically moving everyone who has applied for employment insurance benefits since March 15 to CERB. Those who had applied for and were receiving an EI benefit prior to March 15 will stay in the EI stream and continue to receive the benefits they’ve been receiving as per EI rules that were in place at the time they were approved. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Occupational Health and Safety and COVID‑19

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is the set of workplace rules employers have to follow to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their workers. COVID‑19 brings additional OHS concerns to workplaces that teachers need to be aware of and that need to be addressed by employers.

Section 3 of the OHS Act obliges employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of teachers and other workers in the school, as well as others who may be affected by hazards from the school. Assessing and controlling hazards is part of providing and maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. Hazard assessments should be updated to include extra controls put in place to manage the risks associated with COVID‑19.

The cleanliness and hygiene of the school is important for a healthy and safe work environment. Section 5 of the OHS Act states that teachers and other workers in the school also have a responsibility in protected the health and safety in their schools and to report unsafe or harmful conditions to their employer. As such, if a teacher is not satisfied with the health and safety of the work environment, they need to communicate this concern to their principal promptly so action can be taken to remedy any hazardous condition in a timely manner. 

The Government of Alberta has released a document for non-healthcare workplaces on COVID‑19 specific concerns. The document lists guidelines to address the specific hazards related to COVID‑19 and how employers can control these hazards to the lowest level possible or eliminate them altogether. The guidelines are based on the recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer and can be found online at https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/covid-19-non-healthcare-workplace-guidance.pdf

WORTH SHARING

Teachers have the right to know about workplace hazards and have access to basic health and safety information. OHS rules ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of teachers and other workers in schools. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Income Supports for Substitute Teachers

According to the Government of Canada, the portal for accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) should be available in early April. Members who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits.

Regular Benefits are Available

To find out if you are eligible to receive EI regular benefits, you must submit an application online. It will take about 60 minutes to complete the online application. The website takes you through the application process step-by-step and provides detailed instructions on how to complete the form. When you apply for EI benefits, you will be asked for your e-mail address. If Service Canada needs more information about your claim and cannot reach you by phone, a Service Canada agent will send you a toll-free number by e-mail, asking you to call an agent.

Employment Insurance Benefit (EI)

Here’s how to apply:

Step 1: Ask your employer for a Record of Employment (ROE). They will either provide you a paper copy or send an electronic copy directly to Service Canada.

Step 2: Apply as soon as possible (even if you do not have your ROE yet). You can apply online using your computer or mobile phone.

If you cannot apply online, call 1-833-381-2725. Please note that this line is currently overloaded given the millions of people in Canada that have been laid off. Be patient.

***You will not be issued a 16-digit reference code. Please complete your application without using a reference code.

Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB)

Here’s how to apply:

Step 1: Get ready to apply

If you can apply online (computer or mobile phone) go to and make sure you have a MyAccount with the Canada Revenue Agency. Register hereThe Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.

Important to Know

There is a LARGE backlog of EI claims. You may consider applying for the CERB instead.

If you have already submitted your EI application, you will automatically be assessed for the CERB. You do not need to send in a new application.

You do not require a doctor’s note for COVID-19.

On March 27, we encountered the following: SERVICE CANADA OFFICES ARE NOW CLOSED. The Canadian Government will be providing information to help people without a computer and internet.

You can prove your identity to the government faster online if you use online banking through your bank or credit union.

 

WORTH SHARING

According to the Government of Canada, the portal for accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit should be available in early April. Members eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits. #WEAREATA

WORTH KNOWING

Mental Health Supports

Albertans are facing challenging times. Teachers in Alberta have access to a variety of supports and resources to help them. One of these supports is access to the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).

The EFAP is available to members and their dependents as a part of their group health benefits plan in their collective agreements. Teachers who are in need of assistance with managing the many facets of life’s stresses, including career related, financial, and family related stress, can access confidential support through the EFAP. Support for teachers and family members struggling with the emotional toll brought by the pandemic are also readily available.

Teachers with ASEBP group health benefits (including teachers in Calgary Public) can contact Homewood Health:

  • Homewood Health e-Ap (search “e-Ap” in your phone’s app store)

Phone:

English contact numbers

1-800-663-1142

TTY: 1-888-384-1152

International (call collect): 604-689-1717

French contact numbers

1-866-398-9505

ATS: 1-866-433-3305

Appels internationaux (frais virés acceptés) : 514-875-0720

WORTH SHARING

Mental health is as important as physical health. Please take of yourself so you can take care of others.  #WEAREATA

 

WORTH DOING

Teacher Trustees at Alberta School Employee Benefits Plan (ASEBP)

The ASEBP provides health, dental and vision benefit coverage for over 44,000 teachers and other education workers. In addition, they provide life insurance and extended disability insurance provisions to over 55,000 covered members. 

 ASEBP provides quality benefits and other services, such as Health Spending Accounts, Wellness Spending Accounts and Wellness Consultants to school boards, teachers and other education workers. Teachers can also access their Employee and Family Assistance Plan through Homewood Health 24 hours per day. 

Overseeing ASEBP is a board of trustees composed of five members appointed by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and five members appointed by the Alberta School Boards Association. The Association’s Provincial Executive Council typically appoints teacher representatives for a four-year term and trustees usually serve two terms. Below are your current trustees:

·         Chad Bowie – Fort McMurray Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2012

·         Doug Lerke – Prairieland Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2013

·         Shirene Napier – Greater Peace Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2014

·         Fred Kreiner – Executive Staff Officer, Teacher Welfare – ASEBP Vice-Chair since 2017

·         Evelyn Chan – Red Deer City Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2019

Teachers serving on the ASEBP board will typically be out of the classroom between 10 and 20 days per year to attend monthly board meetings, committee meetings, strategic planning events, orientation and professional development. They also spend many hours reading meeting packages or traveling to meetings.

WORTH SHARING

Teacher trustees at ASEBP continue to look out for the interests of plan members, ensuring teachers and other education workers have quality benefits. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Budget Implications

Over the past year, teachers and school boards have ridden the funding roller coaster. October’s budget saw school boards grappling with significant funding reductions. The cuts ranged from $122,000 for Lakeland Catholic School Division to $30.235 million for Calgary School District. Five boards enjoyed modest increases.

The budget released on 2020 02 27 partially restored funding to school boards. All boards will have more money next year than in this current year, however, many boards will still have less than last year while a few will have more than last year.

The big picture view is that funding levels still have not kept up with enrolment growth and inflation. Data from the 2005/06 Alberta Education annual report, enrolment estimates from Alberta Education along with historical enrolment data, and price level data from Statistics Canada illustrates this. From 2005/06 to 2019/20, total funding to school boards grew by 67 per cent; that works out to 3.85 per cent per year. During that same time, enrolments grew by 44 per cent (2.64 per cent on an annual basis) and the price level grew by 44.3 per cent (2.76 per cent on an annual basis). When we combine the effects of enrolment growth and inflation, real funding per student actually fell by 7.4 per cent between 2005/06 and 2019/20. This works out to a decrease of 0.5 per cent per year.[1] 

Based on government projections of school board funding for 2020/21 and assuming 2 per cent enrolment growth province-wide, the decrease in real funding per student between 2005/06 and 2020/21 will be about 9.2 per cent (-0.6 per cent annually).      

WORTH SHARING

Education funding has not kept up with inflation and enrolment growth and will have fallen by 9.2 per cent between 2005/06 and 2020/21. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Good Pension Facts—Service to Plan Members

 Defined benefit pension plans, like the one paid into by Alberta teachers, are increasingly rare. The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) has provided the finest quality in both service to plan members and in investment portfolios for the past 80 years. While the investment work of ATRF is changing, ATRF is still the pension administrator and trustee of the plan. This means that they will continue to collect pension contributions, calculate service and administer pension payments.

Whether a member has a one-on-one conversation with an ATRF representative, is looking for information on the ATRF website or accesses their MyPension account for a pension calculation, they can expect an exceptional experience when accessing these services.

In 2018/19, ATRF:

•     met with 1,722 plan members for personal interviews with our pension counsellors in various locations across Alberta and in the office in Edmonton,

•     greeted more than 400 plan members who stopped by their office in Edmonton and met with pension specialists,

•     responded to more than 26,000 phone calls,

•     presented 47 seminars to 1,913 teachers in various locations around the province,

•     provided more than 4,800 responses to member emails,

•     completed 3,042 pension estimates, in addition to more than 61,300 pension estimates that were completed in MyPension,

•     processed more than 500 service purchase applications, a 37 per cent increase over 2017/18 and

•     helped 1,180 members to start their pensions, which represents an increase of 8 per cent from 2017/18.

WORTH SHARING

Only half of all plan members are registered for MyPension! This secure portal allows plan members to obtain a pension estimate or service purchase estimate, view their member statement, update personal information and subscribe to the newsletter, Pension Points.#WEAREATA

 

WORTH DOING

List of All Matters (LAM) Input

List bargaining is the process of negotiating with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) on which items or “matters” the parties will be able to bargain centrally and which will only be available for local bargaining between the Association and school divisions.

Each of our 61 bargaining units has a Teacher Welfare Committee (TWC) made up of teachers from the bargaining unit who are leaders for both central and local bargaining. In order to obtain input on bargaining, the Association’s Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) meets with the chairs of each TWC. For central table bargaining 2020, one of the first requests of TWCs was for the committee to give their opinion on which matters should be placed on the list for central bargaining and which matters should be local. In making this determination, TWCs must judge the priorities of their bargaining unit but must also consider the likelihood of achieving gains in these matters at the local level. CTBC will be collecting all this information from TWCs this month in order to be ready for list bargaining later this spring.

Your CTBC is comprised of teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and supported by the staff in the bargaining program area (Teacher Welfare).

Carmen Glossop began her career in 2004 and continues to love it. Her first 10 years were spent in rural Alberta teaching in St Paul and Two Hills. For the last six years, Carmen has taught with Edmonton School Division.

She has had the privilege of teaching in all four divisions including Head Start Kindergarten and upgrading adults. Most of Carmen’s career has been focused on teaching children with special needs. She has had some interesting assignments over the years, including teaching junior high/high school at a Mennonite school, Muslim girls in the basement of an Edmonton Mosque, and currently a specialized program for Medically Fragile and Special Needs.

 Carmen’s Association involvement began in 2007 as a school rep, where she quickly became Vice-President of the Greater St Paul Local. By 2011, she was Local President of the Greater St Paul Local. After two terms as president, she moved to Edmonton. Carmen soon began to miss her Association involvement and started the process all over again. In 2017, she was elected Vice-President of the Edmonton Public Teachers’ Local (as Finance Chair) and then, in July 2019, she became one of the District Representatives for Edmonton/McMurray.

Carmen was very excited to join the Central Table Bargaining Committee.

 WORTH SHARING

List bargaining is an important step in negotiations between the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) and the Association. The Association Central Table Bargaining Committee is in the process of collecting input from our local bargainers in preparation for this first stage of central bargaining 2020. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Alberta Government Revenues

Sometimes it seems like Alberta is perpetually in a fiscal crisis, and we do have one of the most volatile revenue streams amongst Canadian provinces. This results in unpredictable spending cycles.

The MacKinnon Report repeatedly compared Alberta to British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The comparisons focused entirely on expenditures and ignored revenues. Any sound fiscal analysis needs to consider revenues and the volatility of provincial revenues. The graph below shows revenue per capita across Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Alberta’s revenue is much more volatile than revenue in the other provinces.

 

Alberta’s resource revenue as a share of total revenue is also the highest among these four provinces. In the table below, you can see the share of resource revenue in total revenue of the four provinces. It should be pointed out that in 2015 and 2016, when Alberta’s resource revenue as a share of total revenue fell below 10 per cent, it was not that other revenue sources increased but rather that resource revenue declined so drastically.

 

Drawing such a large share of our provincial revenue from a volatile source such as resources, means that our provincial revenues will be highly volatile. The graph below shows the variance in revenue growth for each province from 2008 to 2018. Alberta’s revenue growth is 8.5 times more volatile than British Columbia’s, 15 times more volatile than Quebec’s, and 21.8 times more volatile than Ontario’s.

 

WORTH SHARING

Alberta’s fiscal crisis is due to our reliance on an erratic and unreliable revenue source. Alberta has one of the most volatile revenue streams amongst Canadian provinces. This results in unpredictable spending cycles. However, responsible and predictable spending is essential to maintaining Alberta’s world class public education system. #WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING

List of All Matters (LAM)

The first step in all rounds of central table bargaining is for the parties to the central process (the Association and the Teachers Employer Bargaining Association or TEBA) to negotiate which issues or matters are to be bargained at the central table, and which issues are local.  The definition of central matters is stipulated in the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA).

Criteria for determining central and local matters

9(1) For the purposes of determining whether a matter is a central matter or a local matter, a matter is a central matter if either of the following applies: 

(a) the matter could result in a reasonably significant impact on expenditures for one or more employers;

(b) the matter involves issues common to most of the parties to the collective agreements that can be addressed in central bargaining more appropriately than in local bargaining. 

(2) If neither subsection (1)(a) nor (b) applies, the matter is a local matter.

This definition drives most “big ticket” items towards the central table. However, the Association endeavours to strategically position issues on the lists to provide our greatest chance of success on those issues. We also maintain local bargaining on issues where local solutions are in the best interest of members.

Your Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) is comprised of teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and supported by the staff in the bargaining program area (Teacher Welfare).

Heather McCaig is in her second term on CTBC and is in her third term as District Representative for Southeast Alberta. Heather started her career in 1996 at Irvine School in the Prairie Rose School Division teaching English and Drama. She then spent five years as a substitute teacher prior to landing at Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat School Division in 1999, where she has been ever since.

Heather has taught Social Studies and started Career and Technology Studies Leadership courses at the school. Currently, Heather teaches Leadership and English Language Learners.  

With over 20 years of leadership within the Association, Heather has served in a variety of capacities including; Local President, Economic Consultant, Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board member, as well as serving on a variety of different committees.

WORTH SHARING

Issues which could result in significant costs for employers are typically placed on the Central side of the List of All Matters (LAM). Maintaining local bargaining on issues where local solutions are in the best interests of members is a priority. #WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING

Who calls Teacher Welfare (TW)?

With 61 bargaining units across Alberta, teachers have different entitlements in their collective agreements. Teacher Welfare Staff Officers help members understand these entitlements, as well as offer support to ensure that the collective agreement is applied correctly. Teachers can contact Teacher Welfare year-round with questions or concerns. Every call is confidential and no action is taken unless the teacher authorizes it.

During the 2019 calendar year, TW responded to 5,305 inquiries from members.

Leaves

During 2019, 62 per cent of all calls to TW were questions regarding leaves. Teachers may need to take a leave from work for a variety of reasons. Some leave provisions are common to all 61 agreements, like maternity and parental leave. Other leave entitlements are specific to the school jurisdiction for which a teacher works, such as sick leave, family medical, or personal/private business leave. Sick leave and maternity leave often require individual consultation with the Association due to the specific circumstances of the teacher. 

 

As you can see from the graph above, most calls to TW are concerning sick leave or extended disability benefits (EDB). However, teachers experiencing any issues accessing leaves should report the situation to their TW Committee chair or TW directly. TW Staff Officers help teachers to understand the leave provisions available to them, so be sure to call prior to requesting the leave.

 Collective Agreement

The terms and conditions of practice and the compensation of teachers employed by school jurisdictions are established in collective agreements. Twenty-seven per cent of calls to TW were questions or concerns regarding specific areas of the collective agreement. TW Staff Officers help members understand the provisions that are available to them, as well as address maladministration of the collective agreement. In the case of a grievance, timelines must be adhered to. Teachers should call TW if they have any concerns with respect to collective agreement entitlements.

 

 

WORTH SHARING

Teacher Welfare staff responded to 2,434 teachers last year with questions and concerns related to their working conditions. Staff are available to help teachers year-round. Call 1-800-232-7208 to speak with a staff officer. #WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING

Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) - Preparing for List Bargaining

Under the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), central table bargaining is conducted by the Association on behalfof all active members. The Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) is made up of representatives from school divisions and government. 

The first step in central bargaining is to agree on what matters will be bargained at the central table and which are exclusively for local negotiations. This is called List Bargaining. In this round, the parties (TEBA and the Association) must open for list bargaining by the end of February.

Once List Bargaining is complete, negotiations begin on the actual issues of the central matters list. This is called Matters Bargaining.

Your CTBC is comprised of teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and supported by the staff in the bargaining program area (Teacher Welfare).

 Darrin Bauer, Association Vice President, is in his third round of bargaining on CTBC.

 Darrin was elected vice-president in 2019 following four years of service as district representative for Edmonton McMurray. As district representative, he has served as a member of CTBC, Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Committee, Pension Committee, Resolutions Committee and Teacher Welfare Services Committee.

Now in his 25th year of teaching, Darrin is currently at St Francis Xavier High School in Edmonton. He has taught grade five and high school social studies and is currently assigned as the off-campus Education Coordinator. Darrin also spent eight years teaching at Edmonton Catholic Schools’ Fresh Start Outreach High School, which provides students with an alternative to a high school classroom setting. 

Darrin’s assignments as vice-president of the Association include chairing the Resolutions Committee, serving as a member of the CTBC and the CTF Committee. He also acts as Provincial Executive Council liaison to the Religious and Moral Education Council and the Educational Technology Council.

WORTH SHARING

Your Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) is made up of Alberta teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and is supported by your staff bargainers, communications staff and economist. #WEAREATA

Your CTBC is actively planning for the upcoming round of negotiations and how best to represent your issues at the bargaining table.#WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING

Financial Wellness

On 2020 01 11, the Teacher Welfare Services Committee received a presentation from Alberta School Employee Benefits Plan (ASEBP) on upcoming improvements to plans and programs. ASEBP has developed a communication campaign to connect Alberta teachers with ASEBP coverage to a host of financial wellness supports offered through the Employee Assistance Program (EFAP) in partnership with Homewood Health. This initiative will augment the Financial Wellness presentations available through your local.

Do you have ASEBP coverage and want to connect with confidential services to support financial wellness?

Assistance is just one confidential call away. Homewood Health has numerous, highly-trained staff available 24-7 to help you find the resources and tools you need to get your finances in tip-top shape. When you call, you’ll be asked a few questions to ensure you are directed to the best person for your situation.

 

English

1-800-663-1142

TTY: 1-888-384-1152

International (call collect): 604-689-1717

Français

1-866-398-9505

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Do you have ASEBP coverage but prefer to work it out online? Register for a Homeweb.ca account to access handy online tools and resources like these:

WORTH SHARING

Teachers have access to a lot of support for their financial wellness. ASEBP through Homewood Health is one avenue for this assistance. #WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING

The First 20 Memoranda of Agreement (MoAs)

For each round of local bargaining, each bargaining unit creates an initial proposal based on the list of matters available for local bargaining and the needs of their members. Not all bargaining units seek the same improvements to their collective agreements and not all improvements are possible in each bargaining unit. Some bargaining units have issues that are specific to that school division. Here are some of the achievements of the first 20 MoAs in the 2018–2020 round of local bargaining.

Leaves

Half of the first 20 agreements have improvements in personal leave clauses. In these agreements, teachers have gained additional accumulation for personal leave days not used in a school year, and/or have been able to remove restrictions on accessing personal leave.

Professional Development (PD)

Many of the first 20 agreements include either establishing a teacher-controlled PD fund, increasing school division contributions to an existing fund or extending school division funding for PD into the future.

Other Compensation/Benefits

Teacher wellness is a topic of importance for many local tables. All bargaining units in the first 20 who were advancing the addition of a Wellness Spending Account to the Health Spending Account (HSA) now have the ability to allocate money from their HSAs to wellness. While wellness spending is a taxable benefit, it provides teachers with flexibility in using their accounts to best meet their health and wellness needs.

Part Time Teachers

Clauses are being added to collective agreements to protect part time teachers including language to ensure contiguous assignments as well as to limit how much FTE can be changed in a school year.

Substitute Teachers

In many of the settled bargaining units, substitute teachers will see increases in the half-day teaching assignment rate, typically from 50 to 60 per cent of the daily rate. Professional development for substitute teachers is also improving. Some of the agreements are adding access to paid days for substitute teachers attending professional development days. Language is also being added for cancellation of assignment, guaranteeing that, if the substitute job isn’t cancelled within a certain window of time, the substitute teacher will still receive pay to attend work that day.

School Leaders

Several of the first 20 agreements include an addition of lieu days for school leaders, including principals and vice/assistant principals. There is also improvement in compensation for travel, as well as red circling clauses to protect an administrator’s allowance for a specified period of time in the case of an involuntary transfer.

WORTH SHARING

Despite the tough fiscal environment for many school divisions, local bargaining is making gains for teachers. This local round of bargaining started in June 2019. #WEAREATA

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WORTH KNOWING

What Does Two More Years of Zero Per Cent Increase Mean to our Purchasing Power?

The salary arbitration decision released 2019 01 10 means that teacher salary grids have gone up on average a total of 2.16 per cent in eight years.

Since 2011, the annual compound growth (assuming we received the same increase each of those years) in teachers’ salary has been 0.27 per cent, while inflation in Alberta has averaged 1.6 per cent. 

Since 2001, the annual compound growth in teachers’ salaries has been 2.05 per cent per year while inflation in Alberta has averaged 2.08 per cent per year during that time. 

 

WORTH SHARING

Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation in the 2000s. Teachers have done their share. #WEAREATA

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WORTH DOING!

Salary Arbitration Update

  • The salary arbitration agreed to by teachers and the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) through the 2018–20 central table settlement and then delayed by Bill 9 was held November 14 and 18, 2019.
  • The Association was represented by legal counsel from Field Law LLP, Teacher Welfare staff officers and our staff economist (who was the Association’s expert witness on the state of the Alberta economy and teacher salaries).
  • We made our case for salary increases of three per cent in both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years and TEBA made their case for a salary rollback of two per cent effective the date of the arbitration decision.
  • The Association vigorously countered TEBA’s request for a rollback pointing to the language in Letter of Understanding 6 in the Mediator’s Report which states as its first point: The only matters subject to arbitration shall be general increases to the salary grids.
  • While the arbitration panel stated that they would try to issue their decision as expeditiously as possible, we are now entirely in their hands.
  • It is not uncommon to wait two or more months for an arbitration decision and we do not expect to hear anything until mid-January at the earliest.
  • As soon as we have the decision we will release it to teachers.

WORTH KNOWING!

Employment

  • Hardly a day goes by without unemployment data making headlines.
  • In its simplest form, the unemployment rate is the number of people who are unemployed divided by the labour force.
  • The labour force is made up of people who are employed and those who count as being unemployed (a person who is actively seeking work and is available for work).
  • So why does this matter? The unemployment rate can go up even when there are more people working.

·         If the number of people who count as unemployed increases by the same rate as the number of employed people, then even though more people are working, the unemployment rate remains unchanged. 

·         There is an increase in the number of people who count as being unemployed if people who had previously stopped looking for work start looking again or there is in-migration.

·         In Alberta we have seen some pretty high unemployment rates since 2014 and it is easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom mood. However, when we look at employment, measured in persons employed, the picture gets a bit brighter. The graph below shows us the number of jobs in Alberta since 2012.

 

Source: Statistics Canada Table #14-10-0019

·         Yes, there is seasonal variation in the data. However, overall we are seeing a significant upward trend in the number of jobs.

 

WORTH SHARING!

·         There are 44,200 more jobs in Alberta in November 2019 than there were in 2014 before oil prices collapsed.

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WORTH DOING!

Financial Wellness Session for Teachers!

There is no doubt teachers, like many others, are facing uncertain economic times. That uncertainty may stem from the potential of job losses for themselves or family members, government’s position on salary reductions in the public sector or rumors of potential labour action in upcoming school years. The workshops to support financial wellness will be two-hour sessions presented by Capital Estate Planning and MNP. The sessions to be offered are as follows:

Financial Wellness 101—Presented by Capital Estate Planning and MNP Debt Group

Part 1 Introduction to Financial Wellness

•   Saving 101

•   How to get starting on a Savings Plan

•   Best Practices in Investing

•   Saving for an Emergency Fund

Part 2 Debt Solutions

•   Introduction to Debt Management

•   Debt Reduction Strategies

Interested Teachers should contact their Teacher Welfare Committee.

WORTH SHARING!

Alberta’s Fiscal Cliff

 ·         According to some politicians, news and social media articles, Alberta has an unmanageable and unheard of debt burden and we are about to go over a fiscal cliff. Really??

·         Alberta’s net debt is measured by the value of debt owed by the province minus the financial assets it owns. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the value of stuff being produced in Alberta in a given year.

·         Measuring debt as a percentage of GDP (Net Debt/GDP) indicates how much the province owes in relation to the province’s output. 

·         Alberta’s debt to GDP ratio in 2018 was 5.6 per cent and will be about 7.7 per cent for 2019.

Net debt

Fiscal Reference Tables

https://www.fin.gc.ca/frt-trf/2019/frt-trf-19-eng.xlsx

Population:

CANSIM table # 17-10-0060-01

Nominal GDP:

CANSIM table # 36-10-0221-01

GDP Growth Rates for 2019:

RBC Economics, Scotia Bank, TD Economics, CIBC Economics, Conference Board of Canada

·         The average of the other nine provinces was 31.7 per cent in 2018 and will be about 31.4 per cent in 2019.

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WORTH DOING!

From the beginning of the school year until the time schools break for Christmas, the 61 Association bargaining units (groups of teachers all employed by the same school board and covered by a collective agreement) have held a total of 57 general meetings open to all teachers in the bargaining unit. These meetings are called Bargaining Unit General Meetings (BUGMs) and are held to conduct the business of the bargaining unit such as approving initial proposals for local bargaining or ratifying memoranda of agreement. Due to the great number of recent events affecting teachers and the teaching profession, Teacher Welfare staff have also been providing Association Updates presentations at these meetings. We have noticed growing numbers of teachers at these meetings since the spring. Teachers are becoming more concerned about issues ranging from their pension contributions to curriculum reform without the involvement of the profession, to accusations of teachers’ politics entering classrooms. Teachers meeting together to share information and debate issues makes the teaching profession stronger.

 

WORTH SHARING!

Teachers’ pensions are safe and no pension rules are changing due to Bill 22 Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act. Retired teachers will not notice an effect from the passage of this legislation which amends theTeachers’ Pension Plan Act to mandate that the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund (ATRF) use the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) as its sole investment manager. While ATRF now must use AIMCo instead of managing investments in house (approximately half the assets) and using number of external managers, ATRF will still dictate how the funds are to be invested by AIMCo. This will be done through an Investment Management Agreement. Questions that remain for teachers and the Association are

·         Will AIMCo be able to achieve the expected investment results as ATRF traditionally has? If not contributions for current and future contributing teachers may increase.

·         Will AIMCo, in order to achieve those investment returns, take higher investment risks than ATRF traditionally has? If so, and there are losses, contributions for current and future contributing teachers may increase.

·         How “arm’s length is AIMCo from government and will there be political interference in how money managed by AIMCo is invested?

·         How can AIMCo, a legislated monopoly be more responsive to the pension plans they invest assets for?

·         How open is government to listening to the voices of teachers considering the speed this legislation was passed despite much opposition?

 Teachers need answers to these questions.

 

WORTH DOING!

Last week TW staff presented 20 grievances on central table collective agreement provisions to a meeting of the Teacher Employers’ Bargaining Association (TEBA) and Association grievance committee. This is an unprecedented number of grievances. We represented a teacher who was not getting paid for all her teaching experience and a teacher who was not properly accommodated when she returned from a medical leave. Teacher Welfare Committees (TWCs) are doing a great job of monitoring how the employers are interpreting the collective agreements. Enforcing collective agreements and ensuring teachers have the conditions that were negotiated strengthens the teaching profession.

 

WORTH SHARING!

From 2008/09 to 2011/12, through the collective agreements, teachers received salary increases equal to the increase in the Alberta Average Weekly Wage (AAWE). For those four years teachers received the average increase of all Albertans. Imagine! Teachers receiving average increases of all Albertans. We have been paying for it ever since.

In the 6 years from 2012/13 to 2017/18 teacher salary grids have increase by 2.16 per cent. If teachers had received that 2.16 per cent in equal annual amounts including the effects of compounding (the compounded average growth rate or CAGR) it would have been .43 per cent per year. By the way, inflation (measured by the Consumer Price Index or CPI) over that time was 1.4 per cent per year.