News  McGill cutting MUNACA benefits

Union appealing administration’s decision from before strike

McGill announced it will be paring back benefits for non-academic retirees, two months after MUNACA concluded a semester-long strike.

According to Lynne Gervais, associate vice-principal (Human Resources), as of 2016, MUNACA retirees will be responsible for paying 70 per cent of their medical costs, and 100 per cent of their dental costs. Currently, all MUNACA employees and retirees split these costs 50-50 with the University.

The proposed changes will also affect retirees in the other unions represented on the Staff Benefits Advisory Committee (SBAC), which is comprised of four unions – including MUNACA – and totals roughly 5,000 McGill employees.

According to Gervais, the idea for the changes dates back to 2008 and Provost Anthony Masi’s Administrative Task Force on Dealing with Economic Uncertainty.  In an email to The Daily, Gervais added that the proposal formed part of the recommendations from a working group on cost efficiencies within the Strategic Reframing Initiative (SRI), which launched in October 2010.

In an interview with The Daily, MUNACA President Kevin Whittaker reviewed minutes taken at the July 27, 2011 meeting of SBAC. According to Whittaker, the committee was told at the meeting that Dean of Management Peter Todd, chair of the cost efficiencies working group, had presented the recommended cuts to the SRI Steering Committee.

“That was passed to the senior administration for approval,” Whittaker said. “And then it was to be implemented.”

Whittaker said MUNACA filed a grievance in July.

“They did not consult us. They simply informed us that this is what has been done, and that’s not the process,” he said.

“We will definitely challenge it,” he continued. “I’m sure we’ll be in court at some point.”

Pierre Moreau, executive director of Planning and Institutional Analysis and lead  of the SRI Project Management Office, said the proposal is “not on my radar.”

“We’re trying to…look into some of the things that were announced already by the [Board of Governors],” said Moreau.

“So the only thing that the SRI’s doing about those decisions is just trying to help with the methodology to deliver on them. But this has not been part of the SRI,” he said.

Gervais said the change had originally been scheduled for last month.

“It is important to note that the administration has reconsidered, and that for current retirees, up to June 1, 2016, there will be no changes. Thereafter, the 70-30 medical cost-sharing will apply, along with the 100 per cent dental,” she wrote in the email.

The changes were affected by independent talks between the administration and the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT), one of the constituent employee groups of the SBAC.

MAUT President John Galaty  said the July announcement of the cuts “raised some major issues about how we govern our financial matters, and what kind of voice employee groups…have in these changes.”

“When it first was proposed, it was going to apply, right now, to all the people who are already retired. So we fought that desperately, and we’ve made representations, arguments,” he continued.

“What the University argues is that [the cuts were] done last summer,” said Galaty. “So we feel we’ve done something positive by rolling it back.”

Whittaker said he understood and appreciated MAUT’s efforts. However, he added, “That is not how we should be conducting ourselves.”

“If there is something that impacts on all the groups, all of the groups should be involved with the discussion,” said Whittaker.

“I don’t know if [the change is] something that MAUT proposed, or is that something that came out of the talks? Nobody knows because we were not present, and I think all the groups that this impacts on should have been involved in that discussion, which is the purpose of the SBAC,” he continued.

On October 24, 2011, the SBAC voted unanimously to reject the administration’s proposed cuts.

Whittaker said MAUT’s amendments made the proposal “less painful…but it’s still a cut to those that will feel it most.”

Ron Critchley, president of the McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA) – one of the SBAC unions – echoed Whittaker’s sentiments.

“Sometimes people don’t realize that $1,800 spent at the dentist’s office is a considerable part of a pensioner’s income,” he said.