Teacher Welfare Committee

    

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WORTH KNOWING

New Travel Considerations

International travel during the pandemic has recently come under increased scrutiny, due to winter holiday trips taken by some members of government and their staff. While COVID-19 has cancelled or postponed travel plans for most Alberta teachers, it is important to understand the risks, requirements and responsibilities if you decide to travel internationally.

New Conditions for Air Travel

Starting January 7, 2021, all air travellers five years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a negative laboratory test result for COVID-19 to the airline before boarding international flights to Canada. Airlines will refuse boarding to travellers who are unable to provide a negative COVID-19 test.

Travellers must take the test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure time. Travellers departing from the Caribbean or South America can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure (instead of 72 hours) until January 14, 2021. Travellers must also retain evidence of the test results for the 14-day period that begins on the day they enter Canada.

Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine or Isolation

Everyone entering Canada must follow mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements. Not respecting the mandatory requirements is a serious offence and the traveller could face consequences and penalties. The federal government indicates that it is “actively looking” at options to address a loophole in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that could see returning travellers receive up to $1,000 for missing work due to quarantine requirements, because the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines.

Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) Coverage

If Travelling to Areas with Active Travel Health Notices

If a traveller chooses to travel to a country, region or city under a Government of Canada-issued “Avoid Non-Essential Travel or Avoid All Travel” advisory (also known as active travel health notices or formal travel advisories), there are certain limitations to ASEBP travel emergencies benefits. The advisory must be issued prior to departure date for the limitations to be enforced.

If expenses related to a travel advisory are incurred in a country, region or city for which the Government of Canada has issued a formal travel advisory, those expenses will not be covered by the ASEBP travel emergencies benefits.

However, if the incident is unrelated to the travel advisory, then expenses would be covered. For example, if you are in an area with a formal travel advisory regarding COVID-19 and experience a heart attack, your expenses related only to the heart attack would be covered.

If Travelling to Areas with No Active Travel Health Notices

If a traveller is heading to an area not under an active health notice and becomes ill due to COVID-19, eligible expenses will be covered. If, while on vacation, a formal travel advisory is issued for the current area, eligible expenses will continue to be covered for the duration of the traveller’s stay.

* If the traveller is in an area not under an active health notice and is required to be quarantined due to COVID-19, ASEBP will not be responsible for additional accommodation or travel expenses incurred due to the quarantine, whether the traveller is ill or not.

Teachers covered under other insurance providers should check with their providers for updated terms and conditions concerning international travel.

It is important to be aware that regulations and advisories on international travel are subject to rapid change without notice and could result in unexpected issues for travellers. These issues may cause challenges that could result in unintended delays and further exacerbate potential issues with employers.

WORTH SHARING

Teachers considering international travel should know their risks, requirements and responsibilities. For advice on potential travel issues, teachers should call 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA

 

 

WORTH KNOWING

Increases to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Premiums

Effective January 1, 2021, Canada Pension Plan contributions are going up again. The planned increase is part of a multi-year plan approved by the federal government and all provinces four years ago to boost retirement benefits through the public plan by increasing contributions over time.

The CPP was intended to help Canadians and their employers contribute toward retirement planning. By collecting higher CPP contributions, Service Canada intends to pay retirees 33 per cent of their average work earnings up to maximum limits each year. (Prior to 2019, CPP was designed to replace one quarter of retiree average work earnings, up to a limit). The enhanced CPP requires this increase in contributions alongside the increase in upper limit on earnings subject to those premiums. When the plan is fully implemented by 2023, the contribution rate will have risen to 5.95 per cent from its 2019 level of 5.10 per cent. The new rates are shown below:

 

Year

Contribution Rate

2019

5.10%

2020

5.25%

2021

5.45%

2022

5.70%

2023

5.95%

 

Each year, the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) are set based on a formula in the CPP Regulations, which accounts for growth in average weekly wages and salaries in Canada and compares the annual increase in earnings to the previous year. For 2021, the YMPE is $61,600 with a basic exemption of $3,500. (The exemption is unchanged since 1996).

 

In 2025, a second limit, called the upper earnings limit, will be implemented. It is set at 14 per cent above the YMPE. Earnings between the YMPE and the upper earning limit will face a contribution rate of 4 per cent.

 

So how will this affect you? It is not possible to calculate precise amounts since future YMPE levels are not known. However, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has some projected amounts that we can work with. Assuming that you earn the average 4-max salary in Alberta and have one dependent (so that your combined federal and provincial income tax rate in your tax bracket is 30.5 per cent), we can generate some estimates of the effects. The changes in the table below are relative to the base case of 2019.

 

Year

YMPE

Upper Limit

Base Rate

Upper Rate

Pre-tax Amount

After-tax Amount

Change Relative to 2019

2019

$59,700

$59,700

5.10%

0%

$238.85

$166.00

2020

$61,600

$61,600

5.25%

0%

$254.19

$176.66

$10.66

2021

$63,500

$63,500

5.45%

0%

$272.50

$189.39

$23.39

2022

$65,600

$65,600

5.70%

0%

$294.98

$205.01

$39.01

2023

$67,800

$67,800

5.95%

0%

$318.82

$221.58

$55.58

2024

$70,100

$70,100

5.95%

0%

$330.23

$229.51

$63.51

2025

$72,500

$72,500

5.95%

4%

$376.13

$261.41

$95.41

What’s your CPP payout?

The Canada Pension Plan calculates your CPP payout based on

•  your average earnings in your working life,

•  your CPP contributions and

•  the age you start your CPP payout. 

WORTH SHARING

CPP contributions are going up this year along with the maximum earnings limit. This will boost retirement benefits through the public plan. More information can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/publicpensions/cpp.html

#WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

New Year’s Resolutions

As 2020 draws to a close, many of us will be making resolutions for the new year. Alberta teachers covered under the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) and other insurers can access coverage for a variety of medical services and supplies that complement their provincial health care insurance plan and support their self-care goals.

Self-care is a perfect New Year’s resolution because it is achievable for everyone. Self-care is a holistic approach to overall wellness; it focuses on what is best for you and where you are right now in your life. Fortunately, focusing on your self-care is made easier through accessing the wide range of benefits available through heath/wellness spending accounts and your regular group benefits.

Here are some ideas for planning self-care strategies to incorporate in the new year while maximizing the utility of your benefits coverage. Every calendar year (January to December), you and your dependants can access up to 

       $700 for acupuncture services,

       $250 toward the purchase of medically necessary compression garments and support hosiery,

       $200 toward the purchase of foot orthotics and/or arch supports,

       $700 for massage therapy services,

       $200 for naturopathy services, including telephone and video call sessions,

       $700 for physiotherapy services, including telephone and video call sessions,

       $700 for podiatric services, including X-rays related to treatment and

       $1,200 for psychology services, including telephone and video call sessions.

Please note that teachers covered under insurers other than ASEBP should refer to their own providers’ plan documents.

Other services and supplies are accessible but may be based on a rolling three-year period or lifetime maximum. Visit https://www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/other-medical-services-supplies for all the details.

Health and wellness spending accounts are entitlements in your collective agreement and can act as a flexible complement to your regular group benefits. Your health spending account (HSA) can be used to pay for eligible health-related expenses that are not fully covered under your benefits or provincial health care insurance plan. Your HSA also provides you with a tax advantage by using tax-free dollars to pay for eligible expenses. 

If you have a wellness spending account (WSA), your employer will allocate credits (dollars) to your account, which you can use to pay for eligible wellness-related expenses. However, unlike your HSA, your reimbursed WSA expenses are taxable.

WORTH SHARING

Planning self-care strategies to maximize the utility of your health insurance coverage is a perfect New Year’s resolution to support overall wellness. Click here for more. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Duty-Free Lunch

Although COVID-19 safety protocols include altered supervision assignments, staggered break times for students and changes to the school bell schedule, the provision for a rest period under the 2018–20 central collective agreement (clause 8.3, Duty-Free Lunch) remains.

The school division must schedule a 30-minute rest period for each teacher during each five hours the teacher works. When reasonable, the break should be scheduled in the middle of the teacher’s assignment. If, for some reason, an unbroken rest period of 30 minutes cannot be scheduled, a teacher must agree to two rest periods of no less than 15 minutes each. This is an individual agreement between the school division and the teacher. This does not mean that rest periods can be shortened without written individual agreement or that breaks must be requested by teachers. Further, under no circumstances can there be less than two 15-minute breaks.

Alberta’s Labour Relations Code states that a collective agreement is binding on the parties named in the agreement. A school division cannot alter the provisions of the collective agreement, nor can teachers accept conditions outside of the collective agreement. A school authority must schedule each teacher’s timetable to ensure that the teacher has rest periods that adhere to the collective agreement. Supervision and rest periods must be scheduled by the school authority, not created through sign-up sheets completed by teachers. Further, teachers cannot opt out of time caps or waive their right to a 30-minute rest period.

WORTH SHARING

Although COVID-19 has changed many aspects of public education in Alberta, the provisions in your collective agreement remain in effect. You have a right to a 30-minute rest period. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

New Mandatory Provincewide Restrictions

Managing the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring new challenges to Alberta teachers. As of November 30, 2020, new mandatory provincewide restrictions are in effect.

Grades 7–12 students

       Move to at-home learning from November 30, 2020, to January 8, 2021, except during winter break.*

       Resume in-person classes on January 11, 2021.

       Diploma exams are optional for the rest of the school year. Students and their families can choose whether to write an exam or receive an exemption for the January, April, June and August exams.

K–6 students (including Early Childhood Services)

       Continue in-person learning until the scheduled winter break (generally December 18*).

       Move to at-home learning after the winter break until January 8.

       Resume in-person classes on January 11.

*Schools have different winter break schedules; check with your school for details.

Supporting students with disabilities and students in outreach programs

All students with disabilities who require supports and services in any grade, as well as students in outreach programs, can continue to receive supports and services in person at school, regardless of the shifts to at-home learning before and after the winter break.

       This exemption for in-person learning was based on the advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

       In consultation with parents, schools are expected to continue to provide students with disabilities with the services and supports they need.

       Parents have been advised to work with the teacher and the school principal on appropriate arrangements.

With the new restrictions in place, can teachers work from home?

It is up to individual school boards to decide whether teachers can work from home or whether they need to come into the school. Although instruction for students in Grades 7–12 has moved online, the schools remain open. There is no change for teachers in K–6 schools.

While there is no provincial expectation for teachers to report to school, boards may direct teachers to work from their regular workplace. The Association is advocating that teachers who are not physically required to be at school be allowed to work from home. This is in keeping with the government’s message that people should work from home if possible.

It is important that teachers follow the directives of the employer. They cannot simply choose to work from home if they are expected to report to work.

WORTH SHARING

Managing the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring new challenges to Alberta teachers. As of November 30, 2020, new mandatory provincewide restrictions are in effect. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Travelling During a Pandemic (Information as of 2020 11 24)

The Association has received a number of calls about travel and issues related to travel during the pandemic. With the holiday season fast approaching, information to assist teachers with their decision making is required. As always, the Association advises teachers to call for assistance with personal situations, as every situation may be slightly different.

All Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines and restrictions remain in effect.

An employer cannot direct what teachers do on their personal time. The decisions made to travel or not to travel may hold consequences, but the decision remains with the teacher.

Regarding travel, we advise that teachers make themselves aware of the current restrictions, with respect not only to Alberta but also to their destination. Different restrictions are in place in different provinces and even in different locations within provinces. Be aware of all travel restrictions before you go! For example, some provinces in eastern Canada have just closed their borders to travellers from within Canada. It is also important to be aware that factors may change without much advance notice which may require visitors to leave a location or residents to return home on an expeditated timeline. These issues may cause challenges that could result in unintended delays and further exacerbate potential issues with their employer.

Alberta-related information is located on the AHS website, www.albertahealthservices.ca.

At the time of writing, there are no restrictions to travel within the province of Alberta. Travel is allowed to and from all locations in the province of Alberta without participating in isolation time at the destination or after arriving home.

However, there are restrictions in place in certain destinations/provinces for travel within Canada. Persons travelling will experience isolation time at destinations with these restrictions. This might affect travel plans. Upon return from destinations within Canada, there are currently no restrictions and isolation requirements in place.

Currently, there is an advisory from AHS regarding travel outside of Canada (international travel). There are border restrictions in place. Visit the AHS website to find more information. Travel is a personal choice.

If sick, teachers are entitled to sick leave provisions in the collective agreement, for whatever reason. If a teacher is in quarantine because he or she is exhibiting symptoms and is sick, the teacher is entitled to sick leave as per the collective agreement. (Some teachers have 90 days, and some teachers have the statutory sick leave of 20 days per year.) Sick leave is not dependent on travel in any way.

Currently, there is no quarantine period required in Alberta for people returning from travel from anywhere in Alberta or Canada, so travel from these destinations would not directly result in a quarantine period.

International travel requires quarantine upon return. Those quarantine periods would be without pay because the travel was a personal choice against AHS advisories. Applicable leaves in the collective agreement, such as personal days, can be used for those quarantine periods, as can request for unpaid leave.

If AHS continues to provide a travel pilot project, and should a teacher’s travel plans fit within that pilot project, and should a teacher’s division agree to being a part of that pilot project, a teacher could make a choice to travel and adhere to the pilot project stipulations. Project stipulations require two negative tests, one on the day of return directly to a specific port and a second negative test six or seven days later. Two negative tests are required to return to school. All quarantine periods required for those days between the two tests would be unpaid leave or with the use of leaves available in the collective agreement.

Benefits and travel—some aspects of medical coverage may not be in effect if a teacher travels internationally when advised not to do so. Teachers are encouraged to check with their medical benefits insurer to obtain specific details pertaining to the teacher’s individual plan.

Further information or assistance is available by calling Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232‑7208.

WORTH SHARING

With the holiday season fast approaching, teachers may be considering travel during the winter break. For advice on potential travel issues, teachers should call 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Instructional Time During the Pandemic

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Alberta, the practice of every teacher in the province is being affected by sick, isolation and quarantine absences in the school community. These absences have required that teachers adapt their instructional practices to meet the ongoing and ever-changing needs of their school and classrooms. This does not, however, mean that the cap on instructional time has changed.

Which teachers are subject to the instructional time limits?

a)   Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits as noted in provision 11, Conditions of Practice, in the Central Table Memorandum of Agreement.

b)   This includes lead teachers and teachers in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations.

c)   This also includes teachers who are supervising the instruction provided by another certificated teacher or nonteacher (eg, preservice teacher or instructor of students in the Registered Apprentice Program).

As a reminder, teacher instructional time is not defined by the Memorandum of Agreement; however, student instructional time is defined in the Guide to Education.

The Guide to Education details the specifics of the definition of instruction for students from Early Childhood Services (ESC) to Grade 12. However, instructional time universally includes time scheduled for the purposes of instruction and other activities for children where direct child–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.

Instructional time does not include

  • teachers’ convention days,
  • professional development days,
  • teacher planning days,
  • staff meetings,
  • statutory and school authority–declared holidays,
  • lunch breaks,
  • recesses,
  • time taken for the registration of students,
  • extracurricular activities,
  • breaks between classes,
  • supervised study halls or
  • graduation/commencement rehearsals and ceremonies.

Tracking instructional time is important, especially if teachers are required to cover teaching assignments of absent colleagues. Instructional time caps are enshrined in collective agreements and are enforceable.

If you believe you are over the instructional or assigned time cap, or you calculate a different amount than the school or jurisdiction, the first step should be to discuss the discrepancy with school-based administration. Before meeting with administration, contact Teacher Employment Services to review your calculations. If the conversation with school administration does not solve the issue and you believe you are over the maximum assigned or instructional time cap, a grievance may be filed. As a professional courtesy, and to ensure compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct, you will want to inform school administration of your intent.

The 2020/21 assignable time calculators feature two types of reports, Brief (new) and Detailed. The brief report requires members to calculate their minutes of instruction and assigned time on their own and does not require the completion of the timetable sheets or the month sheets. The brief report will calculate the totals but needs your numbers to start the process. Regardless of which report you choose to use, you will be required to fill in the “day occurrences” in the brief report as it populates the detailed report for you.

The purpose of the brief report is to help you decide more quickly if your assignable time is going to be more than the 1,200 hours specified in the collective agreement. If you have a sufficient cushion in your time, completing the detailed report may not be required. Members with assignable time calculations that approach the maximum should strongly consider completing the detailed report (including the timetable and month sheets). Doing so will ensure an accurate accounting of your time.

Teachers can calculate their own assignable and instruction hours by using the two calculators in the link below.

www.teachers.ab.ca/For%20Members/PayandBenefits/Pages/AssignableTimeCalculators.aspx

 

WORTH SHARING

 

Tracking instructional time is important, especially if required to cover classes of absent colleagues. Time caps are enforceable provisions of collective agreements. Calculate your own assignable and instruction hours using these calculators:

www.teachers.ab.ca/For%20Members/PayandBenefits/Pages/AssignableTimeCalculators.aspx

#WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Assignable time during COVID

Many things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caps on assignable time have not.

Safely responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has often meant more supervision of students. Additionally, teachers are regularly being directed to do cleaning and sanitizing work, which is outside of the scope of professional teaching practice, but has become required by many employers. These all contribute to the maximum time assignable to teachers.

Supervision of students, including transition time between the warning bell and the start of classes and in between classes, is assignable time if the teacher is on call and expected to be in a position to intervene in student behaviour. Jurisdictions may assign time before and after the school day to manage cohort and social distancing. If teachers are required to be in the school, this counts toward the assignable time cap.

Preparation time is considered assigned time if the teacher is assigned to duties in their preparation time. If preparation time is not assigned, teachers may leave the school. This also may be considered as a 30-minute duty-free break as long as this break does not occur at the beginning or end of day. Lunch breaks and duty-free breaks are not considered assignable time, unless a teacher is assigned duties, such as supervision, during the lunch break.

Cleaning and sanitizing are considered assignable time if assigned to the teacher. Staff and other meetings such as business meetings are assigned time if the teacher is required to attend. Staff meetings that do not include all teachers are assigned time only for the teachers that are required to attend (for example, OH&S committee members or Grade 5 cohort teachers).

Which teachers have assignable time limits?

Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits as noted in Provision 2—Conditions of Practice in the Central Table Memorandum of Agreement. This includes lead teachers, and teachers who are in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations.

Which teachers are not subject to assignable time limits?

Teachers with administrative designations whose primary function is not instruction, including those teachers who have principal in their titles (ie, principals, vice-principals, assistant principals) are not subject to the instructional and assignable time limits. Central office staff (eg, psychologist, director of special education, interschool coordinator) may not be subject to the time limits, provided that their primary function is not instruction of students.

WORTH SHARING

Many things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caps on assignable time have not. Contact the Association at 1-800-232-7208 for assistance. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Cleaning and COVID-19—More Than Just Tidying Up

Sanitizing surfaces is a necessary component of controlling the hazards associated with COVID-19 in schools. Increasing the frequency of cleaning and identifying surfaces that must be sanitized should be included as controls in the school hazard assessment.

When teachers take on cleaning and sanitization tasks in the school, they first need to consider if the work is safe for any worker in the school to complete. Safely using cleaning products and chemicals at work requires that the following conditions be met:

•     Training. There is a requirement for the employer to provide training to workers on the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) for the use of most chemical products. This training includes safe use, handling, storage and labelling of chemicals used at the school. Sanitizing workspaces and classrooms for COVID-19 requires additional knowledge of appropriate cleaning products and how long the products must have contact with each high-touch surface to ensure that it is sanitized.

•     Personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is required when handling the product and cleaning with it. Common PPE includes gloves, safety goggles and face masks (different from nonmedical cloth face masks).

•     Access to safety data sheets (SDSs). SDSs inform workers about the chemical composition and hazards of the product, as well as how to safely use, handle and store the product. First aid and other requirements are also found on the SDS. This should be accessible to all workers in the building.

•     Designated first aiders at the school. Work sites require workers trained in Standard First Aid and Emergency First Aid. It is especially important to know who these people are when chemicals are being handled in the school.

If training and PPE are required but not provided, use of the cleaning product or chemical is unsafe, and a worker can refuse to do the work assigned. Refusing unsafe work does not mean not showing up to work. A teacher may be required to complete other duties while another worker is assigned to the task or until the unsafe condition is resolved.

If training and PPE are available, the work may be safe for any worker in the school. However, cleaning is outside of the scope of teachers’ practice. If a teacher is directed to clean, this directive should be in writing. Teachers have the professional obligation to protest a teaching assignment that is not appropriate to their knowledge and training. Teachers need to be aware that they can protest being assigned to clean. A teacher who protests an assignment may still have to complete the assignment as directed but must provide a letter of protest to the school. This serves as a written record documenting that the teacher protested an assignment outside of the teacher’s scope and practice.

 

WORTH SHARING

When being directed to clean, teachers need to be aware of the safety implications, as well as the professional considerations. By taking on cleaning tasks, teachers could be engaging in unsafe work. Cleaning in schools is more than just a bit of tidying up. #WEAREATA

 

Alberta OHS Act, Regulation, and Code

Alberta K–12 School Re-entry

Alberta Teachers’ Association Code of Professional Conduct

 

WORTH KNOWING

Substitute teachers must not be forgotten in the COVID-19 crisis

Teaching in a pandemic requires more teachers. With many contracted teachers becoming ill or quarantining, substitute teachers are assuming significant risk as they parachute into classrooms in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Substitute teachers working in Alberta are required to sign off on a COVID-19 hazard assessment and perform daily screening before entering a school. If they exhibit symptoms, they need to declare themselves unavailable until they are cleared to return to work. Without contracts, these teachers do not have sick leave or benefits. Therefore, if they become ill or display symptoms of COVID-19, they often cannot work for ten days. 

Substitute teachers are indispensable to their learning communities, but just like contracted teachers, they are vulnerable to being intensely affected and possibly damaged by their work.

More than ever, the mental health of all teachers is profoundly impacted by the work they do. The COVID-19 crisis has intensified this impact on some of our colleagues more than others, most notably substitute teachers. Recognizing early warning signs and seeking early intervention is essential. Regrettably, many substitute teachers are without group insurance benefits; therefore, access to support might seem out of reach. 

If you are a substitute teacher, there is mental health support for you.

The Mental Health Help Line is available Alberta wide.

If you are a substitute teacher, you may be eligible for new federal support programs, including the following: 

Click on each link to apply for the benefit or learn more about the program.

WORTH SHARING

Alberta Teachers are in this together, and substitute teachers are indispensable in our learning communities. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Caring for others means caring for yourself!

Many teachers struggle with the idea of putting themselves first. However, taking care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish, because it enables you to better support those who count on you every day.

As the COVID pandemic continues to create unprecedented challenges in education, teachers are being pushed to their limits to meet their students’ needs. Before long, Alberta teachers could be stretched to the breaking point. Now is the time to look for ways to head off this crisis.

Self-care is essential for all teachers, but it looks different from person to person. Teachers are all individuals with different preferences. For some, making time to slip on a pair of runners and take a walk during a break may provide a much-needed recharge during the work day. For others, stress management programs can help to lessen their burden.

Most Alberta teachers now have, as part of their 2020/21 collective agreement, a combined health spending account (HSA) and wellness spending account (WSA), which provides many options—from athletic shoes to alternative healing therapies—to meet individual self-care needs.

However, many teachers still have questions as to how they can use their WSA credits to support their wellness and practise self-care. Some of the obvious options for using a wellness spending account include health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses. These choices are a good opportunity to promote the overall well-being and physical health of the teacher and their dependants.

Less frequently considered options for using WSA credits are expenses that support the teacher’s dependants, such as child and elder care programs and activities.

A more comprehensive list of options can be accessed at

www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/spending-accounts.

Even if your WSA is not with the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan, the listing at the previous link (WSA 2) still applies to you.

 

WORTH SHARING

Self-care is critical to caring for others and should be regarded as an essential practice. Wellness spending accounts (WSA) provide many options to meet individual needs. #WEAREATA

 

 

WORTH KNOWING

 

The Cost of Caring

More than ever, teachers’ mental health is being profoundly impacted by the work they do. The COVID-19 crisis has amplified the need for teaching professionals to open their hearts and minds to their students. Compassion and empathy are critical to the work of teachers. Unfortunately, what makes teachers indispensable to their learning communities also makes them vulnerable to being intensely affected and possibly damaged by their work. Recognizing early warning signs and seeking early intervention are essential. Teachers need to meet their own mental health needs when they help others.

 

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue refers to a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others. This can be regarded as the negative cost of caring.

The task of teachers is to meet the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of their students. Doing so can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but compassion fatigue attacks the very foundation of what drew most teachers to the profession—their empathy and compassion for students.

Alberta teachers must also confront the stigma attached to expressing emotional or mental health distress in school settings and seek the supports and resources available to help them.

Support is available for teachers struggling with compassion fatigue. This support can assist you in learning resilience pathways to help reduce risks and focus on recovery.

·       Teachers with ASEBP group health benefits (including teachers in Calgary Public), 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 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 KNOWING

Health and Wellness Spending Accounts

A majority of teachers have a combined Health Spending Account (HSA) and Wellness Spending Account (WSA) as part of their 2020/21 collective agreement. Teachers are responsible for allocating the credits for the health and wellness accounts; however, understanding Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules about HSAs and WSAs will assist in this process.

Every year in August, allocate your credits to either or both accounts. If you fail to do so by the deadline, all of your credits will be allocated to your HSA.

            NOTE: Once your credits have been allocated and submitted to ASEBP, you cannot change that allocation until the following year.

Once ASEBP receives your credits from your employer, they are deposited into the HSA or WSA as you allocated. Credits cannot be transferred between accounts once they have been deposited.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Should I use HSA or WSA first?

It is always advantageous to use HSA credits first as HSA credits are tax-free. There are many ways to use HSA credits, and you should familiarize yourself with the complete list (see FAQ 2). If you use your WSA credits, ASEBP will provide you with a T4A slip that you must declare as income in your tax return. For that reason, it is always better to use HSA credits first. 

2. How can I spend my HSA?

You can use your HSA to cover any expenses that you could deduct as medical expenses on your tax return with the CRA. See the examples below:

·       Dental services not covered by your plan.

·       Massage therapy sessions that cost over and above what the benefit plan pays.

·       Glasses or contact lens that are more expensive than what the benefit plan pays.

·       Travel expenses for medical services.

For a complete list of medical expenses, see the following link to CRA’s website:

www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/lines-33099-33199-eligible-medical-expenses-you-claim-on-your-tax-return/details-medical-expenses.html.

Teachers are encouraged to review the list regularly. Be a wise consumer of your HSA dollars and use them for everything that is available.

3. How can I spend my WSA?

Use your WSA to purchase items according to the list agreed to at central table bargaining: 

·       Health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses that support the overall well-being and physical health of the member and dependents.

·       Family expenses that support the member’s dependents (such as child and elder care programs and activities).

For a complete list of WSA items, see the following link to ASEBP’s website:  www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/spending-accounts. Note that WSA 2 (For teachers) describes WSA expenditures in detail. This list applies whether or not your WSA is with ASEBP.

4. How do I know how much I have left in my HSA?

This information is available on the ASEBP website by logging in to MyASEBP or on the app.

My ASEBP website: Once you log in, choose Benefits, Spending Account Activity. You should see a summary of the credits added, what has been paid to you and what you have as credits available. To the right of that summary you will see “Unused credits at risk of forfeiture.” That number indicates how many dollars may be returned to the employer if you do not use all of your HSA credits from the previous year by August 31.

ASEBP App: Click on Usage then HSA Account details. You should see your opening balance as well as how much has been added, paid to you and how much is currently available. 

If your HSA is not with ASEBP, contact payroll administrator to determine your HSA credits available.

5. Am I currently forfeiting dollars back to my employer?

Most school boards receive significant HSA forfeitures each year. Any HSA credits provided by your employer in 2018/19 not spent by August 31, 2020, are forfeited back to the school board. See FAQ 4 to find what HSA credits may be at risk of forfeiture.

6. I currently only have an HSA. When do my credits appear in my HSA account?

Depending on how it was set up, your employer will deposit your HSA moneys either once in September or every month.

7. What do I do if I want to keep all my credits in an HSA?

Nothing. By default, the employer contributions are deposited into your HSA.

8. How do I put money into my WSA?

You will be required to notify your WSA administrator in August of each year. If you are with ASEBP, you will receive an e-mail in August requesting you to allocate your credits between the HSA and the WSA. Log in to the My ASEBP website and allocate the percentage you want in each. Remember that once you make this decision, it is locked in for one year.

9. If I am taxed on WSA spending, why bother?

Suppose you allocate $100 to your WSA and use that to purchase a $100 gym membership. ASEBP will reimburse you the full $100 when you submit your WSA claim. You will receive a T4A slip for $100 income in that taxation year. Because the typical teacher has a marginal tax rate of 30 per cent, you will have to pay $30 more tax because of the T4A income slip. That means you received a $100 gym membership, but only paid $30, a $70 savings.

10. How much money should I allocate to my WSA?

That depends on your current use of HSA credits. If you have an HSA of $725, but you only use an average of $200 per year on HSA related expenses, you are forfeiting $525. Instead, allocate that amount to your WSA:

$525 = X                                          X = 72.4

$725    100

This example allocates 70–75 per cent to the WSA. The remaining 25–30 per cent goes to the HSA.

Note that if your HSA/WSA is not with ASEBP, the same rules apply, but the process may be different. Contact your Benefits Officer in your school division.

WORTH SHARING

Be sure to allocate funds to your WSA before the August 31 deadline. #WEAREATA

 

WORTH KNOWING

Just how does summer pay work?

A teacher’s annual salary (found in the collective agreement) is based on years of education (as determined by the Teacher Qualifications Service) and years of experience (also in the collective agreement).

Teachers are paid according to the Education Act, which states that teachers are paid 1/200 for each day they work (with a few variations). Since funds are allocated to school boards over 12 months, paying teachers 1/12 of the annual salary each month from September to August is easier for everyone, including school boards, to budget.

This means that each month some of your earnings are “saved” to be paid in July and August. However, this is just accounting—no money is sitting somewhere earning interest until summer.

But that’s not the full story. This doesn’t work for teachers who work less than a full year or who are not on a continuous contract. Why not?

Teachers aren’t paid for holidays! Teachers are paid only for the days worked (instructional days, PD days, organizational days, teachers’ convention, faith days and so on). Teachers are not paid for Christmas, spring break, Thanksgiving or any other holiday period. Your school division calendar determines what days you are expected to work (and for which you are paid).

If your contract is temporary or probationary, or if you resign June 30, your summer payout must be paid within seven days of the termination date of the contract (Education Act, SA 2012, c E-0.3, s 220(6b)).

What if you don’t work the full year?

Regardless of the type of contract, teachers who work less than a full school year will have a reduced amount of pay for July and August. At the end of June or the end of the teacher’s contract, the board will do a final salary reconciliation to determine the summer payout. A rough guide is that one semester of work equals one month of summer pay. This includes paid leave, such as sick days, personal leave days and paid maternity leave.

The calculation for teachers on temporary contracts of any length and for teachers on probationary and continuous contracts who work or are paid for fewer than 100 days is as follows:

Annual Salary × 1/200 × number of days worked = Earned Income

For example, Chris was hired to work from February 5 to June 26. During that time, there were 94 days worked. Chris used three days of sick leave but had enough paid sick leave to be paid for the 94 days:

Annual Salary × 1/200 × number of days worked = Earned Income

$75,000 × 1/200 × 94 = $35,250

From February to June, Chris was paid 1/12 per month:

($75,000/12) × 5 months = $31,250 (Paid to Date)

Chris’s summer payout will then be calculated as follows:

Earned Income − Paid to Date

Therefore, Chris will receive $35,250 − $31,250 = $4,000 for the reconciliation payout for the summer.

The calculation is different for teachers on continuous or probationary contracts who work more than 100 days in the year but not for the whole year. For these teachers, the calculation is as follows:

Annual Salary – (Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Not Worked)

This is so that teachers are not disadvantaged if the school year is less than 200 days.

For example, say the school year is 197 days, and a teacher takes an unpaid leave for four days. If the teacher were paid 1/200 for each day worked, the calculation would be as follows:

            Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Worked = Earned Income

$75,000 × 1/200 × 193 = $72,375

When the teacher’s pay is deducted by 1/200 for each day not worked, the calculation is as follows:

$75,000 − ($75,000 × 1/200 × 4 days) = $73,500

The difference in subtracting the number of days not worked instead of paying for the days actually worked in this example is over $1,000 for the teacher.

How does this calculation impact summer pay?

Pat went on maternity leave in January. Her paid maternity leave ran out on March 17. Because she is on a continuous contract and has been paid for more than 100 days, the following formula applies:

Annual Salary − (Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Not Worked) = Earned Income

$75,000 − ($75,000 × 1/200 × 64 days) = $51,000

From September to February, Pat was paid 1/12 per month:

($75,000/12) × 6 months = $37,500 = Paid to Date

Pat’s summer payout will be calculated as follows:

Earned Income − Paid to Date

Therefore, Pat will receive $51,000 − $37,500 = $13,500 for the reconciliation payout for the summer.

Check your pay advice every month. At the beginning of each school year, ensure that your education and experience are accurate, especially as you are climbing the grid, and that your annual salary is correct (check your collective agreement). Review the deductions and make sure they are correct.

Every subsequent month, review any changes to your net pay. Don’t forget that you will see an increase in net pay in the latter half of the calendar year as you reach the maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI). This means that you will see a reduction in pay in January as those deductions are taken off your salary again.

 

WORTH SHARING

 

Check your pay advice every month to ensure your salary is correct. Review the deductions and make sure they are correct. Remember you may reach maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) partway through the year. #WEAREATA

 

 

WORTH KNOWING

 

Is a Legal Challenge Possible?

 

One of the first steps the Alberta Teachers’ Association (Association) takes when legislation appears to have an impact on teachers is to contact our legal firm, Field LLP, to identify any possible avenues for a legal response. They provide the Association with their legal opinion of the options that are available. For example, with Bill 22, the omnibus legislation enabling the transfer of control of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) assets to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), the Field legal team reviewed the legislation and, unfortunately, did not identify any credible legal challenges that would enable the Association to overturn or block the amendments to the bill.

 

Individuals may assume that there must be some way to challenge in court when a government undertakes action that seems to be inherently unfair and objectionable. The reality is that the judicial branch generally defers to the legislative branch, allowing the legislature to pass laws concerning matters within its jurisdiction as it sees fit. The exception is when a law violates the Constitution of Canada, which sets out the powers of the various levels of government and the rights of citizens.

 

A piece of legislation or amendment to an existing piece of legislation that seems offensive to an individual may still be constitutional. As a result, there would be no ability for action. While there exists in common law an expectation that a government act justly and this expectation includes some hope of consultation, the Supreme Court of Canada has established that legislative decision making is not subject to this duty of fairness.

 

Ultimately, the wisdom and value of legislative decisions are subject to review only by the electorate. Further, while the expectation that the government will behave fairly is an unwritten constitutional principle, it cannot be used as a basis for invalidating legislation based on the content of that legislation.

 

WORTH SHARING

 

The Alberta Teachers’ Association, with the support of Field LLP, reviews all legislation that has an impact on teachers. Legal avenues are considered and actioned when there is a solid footing on which to launch a challenge. #WEAREATA

 

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

ATS : 1-866-433-3305

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

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.