Bargaining update #4: Bread and butter bargaining

The Bargaining Team met with the Employer on five dates in July. In the lingo of bargaining, the University is referred to as the “Employer,” a term that describes the University’s legal position in relation to YUFA members as employees. What follows is an update on some key developments in bargaining related to compensation and benefits issues. Updates on important items such as working conditions and governance will be covered in other backgrounders and updates in the works that we will be sending out in coming days.

Positives

We have signed off on housekeeping items and altered statutorily required dates for various kinds of leave such as pregnancy/parental and caregiver leave. We are working on revised language for Post-Doctoral Visitors, including academic freedom rights in the classroom and in relation to their own research as well as the Employer’s obligation to provide adequate facilities (e.g. computer access). The parties are working on YUFA’s proposal for an inclusive equal pay exercise, but nothing has yet been signed.

YUFA has responded systematically to almost all the Employer’s proposals. We are holding a consultation with members on the Employer’s proposal on intellectual property and patents. Once we have finished our member consultation, we will be providing the Employer with a counter-proposal on intellectual property. In addition, YUFA is preparing a second set of proposals for the Employer, which will pare down our initial items and integrate the changes that have been agreed to so far.

Negatives

The Employer has said no or has not yet replied to the other YUFA proposals. The Employer refuses to deal with pensions and long-term disability (LTD) in bargaining. They have told us that these matters are more properly dealt with in other venues. Yet YUFA has attempted to resolve the issues in other venues, in some cases, for years, without resolution from the Employer side. If the Employer does not change its position on this, we will be blocked from even discussing pension and LTD improvements in bargaining. In addition, the Employer has also rejected our proposal for an increase in the amount of PTR.

More on pensions

  • After retirement, our pensions have traditionally been indexed each year based on the five previous years’ earnings of the Pension Plan fund. Since 2014, the Employer has imposed a significant reduction in the amount of earnings-based indexing we can receive in the first five years after one retires, making it very unlikely that our pensions can keep pace with inflation.
  • The York Pension Plan has returned to surplus, but the Employer has thus far been unwilling to accept YUFA’s proposals to restore a meaningful degree of indexing or inflation protection to our pensions. Pensions are an important component of our total compensation and retirement security, both of which have been diminished by an indexing formula that is weaker than that of other plans in our sector.
  • A comparison with Ryerson vividly illustrates the impact of the lack of indexation on York pensions. Ryerson’s plan provides for indexation of pensions to CPI increases of up to 8% (any excess is banked for use in future years), while the current York plan provides indexation linked to the plan’s average earnings for the last five years above 6%.
  • The analysis in the table below shows the effect over the last 20 years, using CPI data and York’s pension plan earnings over that period, assuming a starting annual pension of $80,000.
  • The $24,535 difference between the annual pensions of Ryerson and York is fully attributable to the differences in indexation.
Year Ryerson Pension York Pension Difference (York Pension minus Ryerson Pension)
1996 $80,000 $80,000 $0
2016 $116,176 $91,641 $24,535

More on Long-Term Disability

  • Our long-term disability plan is funded entirely by us through payroll deductions. YUFA is seeking to index LTD benefits so that monthly payments for LTD claimants will rise with inflation over the years.
  • Until this year, some of our older members who went on LTD years ago, were receiving as little as $2,000 per month in long-term disability because of the lack of indexation. YUFA’s proposal seeks to ensure that this never happens again.

Expert advice

  • YUFA’s proposals on pensions and LTD are based on expert advice from lawyers and actuaries who have told us that there is no legal reason that these items cannot be dealt with in bargaining. These proposals are in the best interests of members and much of the cost is borne by us through payroll deduction. Other Ontario universities routinely negotiate pensions and LTD at the bargaining table. Yet the Employer refuses to take our proposals seriously and has stated that they are not appropriate topics for collective bargaining.

Progress-through-the-ranks (PTR) pay increment

  • In eight of the last nine rounds of bargaining, the Employer has imposed a freeze on our members’ annual PTR increments. The Employer is insisting on a further freeze over the duration of the next collective agreement. As a result, younger faculty at York could end up with a much flatter career salary trajectory than their counterparts at other universities where annual increases to the amount of the PTR increments are the norm.
  • The comparison between Ryerson and York below demonstrates the impact of PTR freezes on our members, if one assumes an $85,000 starting salary and no annual cost-of-living increases.
Ryerson York
Annual PTR increment in current collective agreement $3,250 $2,750
Average salary over 32 years career (assuming $85,000 starting salary) $135,375 $127,625
Average of best 5 years (used to calculate pension) $179,250 $164,750

More information

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