Dear SFUFA Members:
This bulletin contains updates and information on the following topics:
- Dues vote results
- Pension Transition – purchasing past service
- Collective bargaining
- Academic Pension Plan Trustees
Dues Vote Results
Between June 1 and 10th, faculty members voted on a proposed increase to raise SFUFA dues from 0.685% to 0.85%.
71% of votes cast were in favour of the increase, with 27% opposed and 2% abstentions. The increase will come into effect on September 1 of this year.
Those seeking background information regarding the dues motion can find details at https://www.sfufa.ca/faculty-association-dues-rates-2021/
Pension Transition – purchasing past service
The next step of transition to the BCCPP – purchase of past service – is now underway. This part of the process is entirely voluntary, and impacts only those who applied for a statement of cost to buy past service. Please note that while we endeavour to provide information that is as complete and as accurate as possible, ultimately members should confirm critical information with the BCCPP and/ or Sun Life as appropriate.
There are three major points to be aware of:
1) Statements of cost of previous service were mailed out on June 13;
2) There is a limited window of time in which decisions can be made and processes completed to purchase years of service;
3) if you use any portion of your Sun Life (Academic Pension Plan) pension to purchase past service with the BCCPP, you must close your Sun Life pension account. You are not required to transfer all of these funds to the BCCPP, but if you choose to buy past service, anything remaining in your Sun Life pension account must be moved to another retirement vehicle, such as an RRSP or annuity.[MOU1]
4) Faculty members are encouraged to seek independent financial advice before making any decisions.
Further details on the above were sent to members by VPA Catherine Dauvergne and SFUFA President Kumari Beck on Monday 13; to review that communication, please see: https://www.sfufa.ca/pension-buy-back-update/
For those who choose not to purchase past service at this time, the BCCPP has indicated that a second window will be opened in 2023. Details of that are not yet available, but members should be aware that the next round will require members to pay for the cost of calculating the price of past service. Costs up to $500 must be paid by the member; anything above this will be paid by SFU.
For any questions related to the purchase of past service and/ or the transfer of Sun Life funds, please reach out to the organizations directly.
For BCCPP: Visit https://college.pensionsbc.ca/college-pension-plan
For Sun Life: Visit https://www.sunlife.ca/en/
For some time we have been speaking about preparations for collective bargaining, as our current Agreement expires on June 30 of this year. (That agreement, however, does remain in effect until a new one is signed and ratified). Many members have been asking why the promised bargaining survey has not yet been distributed, and no announcement has been made regarding member consultations. Our apologies. In part the delay has simply been the result of overwork. But there is more to it, as the provincial bargaining context has caused both us and SFU to take additional time before rushing to the table.
Normally, the provincial government bargains quite early in the year with some of the larger public service unions; at some point during that process, a provincial bargaining mandate is announced, which lays out the expectations – mostly but not exclusively monetary – that the government’s Public Sector Employers’ Council has set for its employer organizations. This PSEC mandate is not law, but it does severely constrain bargaining, as employers across the public sector, including universities, are told what they may and may not do in bargaining; and though there is no law, employers tend to take that mandate very seriously, with the result that public sector agreements in BC almost always fit within its parameters.
This year no large public sector union has settled its major agreements, and no PSEC mandate has been announced. Indeed, it appears we could be facing a significant strike in the BC public sector unless action is taken to deal with the impact of inflation. A number of unions have been vocal with their expectation that changes to the cost of living be explicitly provided for in collective agreements; the BC Government and Employees’ Union, in particular, is actively preparing for a potential large-scale strike based in no small part on this issue.
What this means for all of us in the broader public sector is that the landscape is profoundly uncertain still; unless and until some settlements begin to emerge – whether through strikes or negotiations – many unions and employers are hesitant to leap too quickly into signing a deal. We have, instead, slowed down a little as we wait to see what shakes out in the provincial bargaining context.
Here at SFU, the immediate impact has been that a bargaining round initially expected to begin in April was put off til summer and is now likely to be put off til Fall. Our preparations have indeed begun, but with more time before we go to the table, our schedule has been adjusted. The bargaining survey is coming in the next few days; meetings with various constituencies on various campuses will be scheduled shortly; and our proposals and priorities will be rooted in what we hear from you. We are not, however, actively in bargaining, and at this point anticipate that will not happen until sometime in the Fall semester. Better to wait to enter negotiations with open eyes than to begin before we know anything about what has happened at some of the province’s largest bargaining tables. Nevertheless, this intervening time is being used for important work that will underpin the next round of bargaining, including a detailed analysis of salary distributions at SFU and the impact of market pressures on competitive hiring.
Academic Pension Plan Trustees
As we continue to transition fully into the BC College Pension Plan, the vast majority of SFUFA members continue to also be members of SFU’s defined-contribution Academic Pension Plan (APP). The APP is governed by 8 trustees – 4 appointed by SFU and 4 appointed by SFUFA, these latter being generally chosen through an election.
As we work through the transition, the number of members of the APP will shrink – initially as members transfer funds to the BCCPP, and for some years to come through the normal cycle of retirements. While we cannot predict at this point exactly how quickly the membership of the APP will contract, or what exactly SFU might choose to do with that Plan as it changes, we can anticipate that change will come. And our role as SFUFA must be to ensure that any contemplated changes place the well-being of members at the centre.
To maintain continuity of expertise during this time of transition, the Association Executive has decided this year to extend the appointments of 2 APP trustees for another term – rather than holding an election, the two members currently serving in terms set to expire have agreed to continue their work for an additional term so as to provide the greatest possible stability in Plan governance until such time as we can better understand what the future of the APP might look like.
Your faculty pension trustees have worked especially hard these past couple of years dealing with the many complexities of the transition to the BCCPP. Please join us in expressing our thanks to these colleagues – Susan Erikson, Suzanne Norman, Barbara Sanders, and Kendra Strauss.