Call to Reverse McGill's Unilateral Staff Benefits Reductions

MONTREAL, Nov. 26 /CNW Telbec/ - The representatives of all McGill employee groups that have membership on McGill's Staff Benefits Advisory Committee (SBAC) - the McGill Trades Unions, the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), the McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA), and the McGill University Association of University Teachers (MAUT) - together denounce the unilateral decision of the University, adopted by the Board of Governors, to make substantial cuts to staff benefits coverage. We call for the immediate reversal of this decision and a meeting with the Administration to discuss an alternative outcome.

The employee benefit plans are not funded entirely from the operating budget - at McGill the staff pay 50% of the cost, and their views voiced through the SBAC about the use of their own money cannot be disregarded. All employee groups participated in good faith in the recent SBAC process, which had reviewed the health and dental plans, and pointed to considerable savings that could be achieved without any financial hardship for employees. This could involve moving to direct deposit of plan payments into member bank accounts, the preferential use of generic drugs for the University, and a consistent focus on coverage for evidence-based health care. All employee groups agreed that the substantive scope of the plans, specifically, the health plan "out-of-pocket maximum," payment for health care supplies and services, existing dental plan coverage, including for implants, minor restorative services, major services, and services for retirees should all remain untouched. Thus, there was no process of consultation with employees leading to the changes that were actually announced, which make sweeping reductions to our benefits package. Thus, to say that employees were consulted on the announced changes to the plans amounts to saying that their views were heard but rejected. That is not collegial governance of jointly funded plans.

It is also striking that the McGill Board of Governors voted on these unilateral changes without having received the proposal in advance of the meeting so that Board members could inform themselves that the proposal departed radically from the SBAC consultation. This is inconsistent with transparent university governance.

The savings to the university represented by these changes go beyond the $1 million that the university had initially targeted for reductions in staff benefits, and are projected instead to be at least $1.3 million. Cuts to dental coverage and the steep rise in the out-of-pocket maximum will hit low-income employees the hardest. Cutting off future retirees from University contributions to dental benefits will double their payments as they move to reduced income. For decades, McGill staff have consistently chosen to pay slightly higher premiums and retain a modest deductible so that low income families with serious medical expenses will not have to suffer. It is particularly troubling that during a salary freeze, the Administration and Board of Governors have disregarded this choice and imposed a unilateral decision that will cost these families an additional $700. In short, the changes being imposed are regressive. Furthermore, it is impossible to justify regressive cuts having such negative impacts on employees when we know that the savings represent but a tiny fraction of the overall McGill budget.

McGill vaunts its status among Canada's top employers, and invokes generous staff benefits as a contributing factor: see http://reporter.mcgill.ca/2009/10/mcgill-once-again-a-top-employer/

That reputation is now in jeopardy. When McGill takes such unilateral steps, it seriously erodes the trust of every employee group. This deeply disturbing decision must be reversed.

    
    (signed)          (signed)          (signed)          (signed)

    Robert Huot       Kevin Whittaker   Ron Critchley     Richard Janda
    President         President         President         President
    SEIU, Local 800   MUNACA            MUNASA            MAUT
    

SOURCE SEIU, LOCAL 800

For further information: For further information: Professor Richard Janda, President, MAUT (McGill Association of University Teachers), (514) 398-5097, Richard.janda@mcgill.ca

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SEIU, LOCAL 800

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