The university remains committed to continuing negotiations with CUPE 1975 in hopes that an agreement can be reached.
When will we know if there is going to be job action on campus?
The university will continue working with CUPE 1975’s bargaining team to establish an Essential Services framework. It is the university’s position that an Essential Services framework must be in place prior to CUPE 1975 being in a legal position to take job action.
Once the union is in a position to take legal job action, they are required to provide the university with 48-hours’ notice. If this occurs, the university will inform students, faculty and staff by email.
- The University of Saskatchewan will be open in the event of job action
- Classes will continue and the campus will remain open to students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.
- Some services will likely not be offered while others will be offered in a limited capacity.
Compensation and Benefits
During a work-stoppage, the contract of employees of a union that is taking job action is considered temporarily void. Therefore, during any job action, employees who are members of the related union no longer receive or are eligible for:
- salary and/or wages and top-ups for maternity or parental leaves
- pension contributions or matching
- accruing seniority, vacation time, or years of service toward pension plans
- medical, dental, disability and life insurance plans unless their union chooses to pay the entire premium for these benefit plans.
Access to the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) will continue for all employees, including those taking part in job action, uninterrupted.
Why does USask want to move away from Defined Benefit Pension Plans when other universities have them?
The University of Saskatchewan attracts employees who are members of CUPE 1975 almost exclusively from within the province. In order to determine competitive pay, benefits, and pension entitlements, the university compares to other Saskatchewan employers, not to other universities across the country. Most other employers in Saskatchewan do not sponsor defined benefit pension plans. Of the 530 registered pension plans in Saskatchewan, 85 per cent of them are Defined Contribution (DC) Pension plans. All other open pension plans at USask are DC Pension Plans.
Is the current Defined Benefit Pension Plan modest?
As of 2015, the current Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plan was ranked among the top 25% of pension plans among its competitive market. It is a “2% plan”, providing the highest benefit accrual rate permitted under the Income Tax Act.
CUPE 1975 has regularly referenced that the average annual pension at the end of 2017 was $18,100. This is true, however this average includes plan members who retired many years ago (with much lower salaries) and others with very few years of service. For members retiring in 2018, who had at least 20 years of service, the average pension was approximately $37,000, which is more than double the average number quoted by CUPE.
While there are a variety of views on what is an appropriate income at the time of retirement, it is not unusual or unexpected for retirement incomes to be less than that earned during active employment. A 70% replacement ratio is a commonly acknowledged benchmark in retirement planning. Given the pension benefit formula, (2% x highest average earning x years of pensionable service) an employee with 35 years of pensionable service will reach this benchmark before considering the impact of additional benefits from Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). In fact, when including the impact of CPP and OAS, a number of retirees will end up with more income in retirement than they had while employed. Given these facts, the current DB pension plan is certainly more than a “modest” plan.
Why did the university reject CUPE 1975’s proposed Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan?
CUPE 1975’s proposed Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan (JSPP) pension model is still a defined benefit plan that presents continued cost uncertainty and risk volatility that the university is not in a position to bear. As well, the proposal does not reflect a true jointly sponsored plan, as the university would retain the risk of contribution increases but would not share in any surpluses – making this plan potentially more unsustainable than the current defined benefit plan over the long-term.
The university recently conducted financial projections of the average contributions associated with a number of plan design options, including CUPE 1975’s most recent JSPP proposal. Based on these projections, the university’s contributions are expected to be $116.9 million over the next ten years. This is in comparison to the $114.6 million dollars the current DB plan is expected to cost over the same amount of time. Agreeing to a proposal that would cost more than the current DB pension plan over this same period and beyond is not a reasonable alternative and was rejected by the university.
The JSPP model also introduces a significant level of uncertainty for members in terms of their contribution rates, which could potentially fluctuate frequently with a direct impact on an employee’s take-home pay.
All employment related deductions are also interrupted, including parking, bus passes, pension deductions, union dues, and Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance contributions.
This means that employees who are a part of a bargaining unit taking job action will not be:
- contributing to:
- the Canada Pension Plan
- Employment Insurance
- their USask pension plan
- union dues
- parking fees
- bus pass deductions
The university's offer
Is there a three-year wage freeze?
The university has not implemented a wage freeze. The university’s current offer proposes a wage increase of 2% in 2019 and 2% in 2020, with signing bonuses of $3,000 in lieu of retro pay for 2016, 2017 and 2018. These increases are in addition to the existing, built-in annual 2% increase that employees who are members of CUPE 1975 – those who have not reached the top of their salary band – automatically receive. As a result, employees have the potential of receiving up to 2%, 2%, 2%, 4% and 4% from 2016-2020, or a total wage increase of upwards of 14% plus a $3,000 signing bonus over the 5-year agreement.
|Increase||$3,000 signing bonus (pro-rated FTE)||2%||2%||
4% + $3,000
Can employees who are planning to go on maternity or parental leave still do so?
Yes, maternity and parental leaves are protected under legislation. Employees who are participating in job action, however, are not eligible for the maternity or parental leave salary top-up benefits. If an employee is already on leave and a work-stoppage occurs, their top-up benefit would discontinue for the duration of the work-stoppage and be reinstated after conclusion of the work stoppage (on a pro-rated basis).
What happens to employees who are on sick leave?
Staff in the bargaining unit taking job action, who are on sick leave/salary continuance, Short-term Disability (STD) or Long-term Disability (LTD), are entitled to receive the benefit in normal fashion, even if their union does not pre-pay the STD or LTD premiums. Claims will require medical evidence for continued approval. If the employee is medically cleared to return to work while job action is in progress, the employee will not resume pay through the university.
Staff in a bargaining unit that is taking job action, and who become ill or injured while job action is in progress, will not have access to the salary continuance program and/or STD and LTD plans, and thus will not be compensated for such. Pre-planned medical absences, such as surgeries, will not be compensated through sick leave if the surgery is scheduled during a work stoppage.
Staff in a bargaining unit that is taking job action, and who are on unpaid medical leave of absence prior to job action will continue to be on unpaid medical absence (i.e. will not be compensated) while job action is in progress. Their status with the employer will not change unless they are cleared to return to work and/or known to be active on the picket line.
What happens if a job action occurs while I am on an apprenticeship leave?
Employees who are still in their apprenticeship program can register for schooling and are eligible for Supplementary Employment Benefits (a top-up) for a maximum of 12 weeks in addition to their EI benefits. If an employee is on an Apprenticeship Leave of Absence during a work stoppage and is already receiving the top-up payments, they will be discontinued. The payments will be reinstated after the conclusion of the work-stoppage and be will continued on a pro-rated basis, similar to maternity/parental leave top-ups.
How are workers’ compensation claims being handled?
An employee who is on worker’s compensation prior to the work stoppage would continue on workers’ compensation benefits until such time as they are physically able to return to work as determined by the attending healthcare practitioner and confirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Board. If the employee is medically cleared to return to work while job action is in progress, the employee will not resume pay through the university. Employees who are a part of a bargaining unit that is taking job action cannot make worker’s compensation claims while taking job action.
Employees in a bargaining unit taking job action who have previously authorized vacation scheduled during a work-stoppage will be handled in the following ways:
- If an employee is on vacation when a work-stoppage begins, the subsequent vacation days will be honoured and paid.
- If an employee has vacation scheduled and it lands within the job action (anywhere between the first and the final day) vacation pay will not be provided and the employee will be considered to be participating in the work-stoppage.
- If an employee has vacation days scheduled that begin during job action but conclude after the work-stoppage, the post-job-action vacation days will be paid.
EDOs are accrued with time worked. If an employee has earned/banked an EDO they are able to use it following the job action. The balance is held for when the employee returns. No further accruals are banked during the work-stoppage.
Normal retirement for which the employer has been notified will be processed in a regular manner. Early retirements can still be processed but must be requested by the employee and approved prior to the commencement of a work stoppage.
Can students who are also employees taking part in job action go to classes?
Employees who are also students at the University of Saskatchewan can still attend classes. Any employee who fits this criteria and has concerns about crossing the picket line should talk to their union.
Students are responsible for their own academic attendance. Any absences must be approved by their instructor, as per their syllabus.
If you are a student who works on campus, you may be a member of CUPE 1975. If you’re not sure of your union status you can check your paystubs on PAWS. Instructions on how to view your union status on your paystub is available here.
Attending work and/or Crossing the Picket Line
Can employees who are a part of a bargaining unit that is taking job action still come to work?
It is legal to cross the picket line and continue to work during job action. If an employee is interested in crossing the picket line to continue working, their People Leader or HR SBA will assist the employee in arranging for their safety and security, and access to continue work will be supported.
Do employees of other university unions have to cross the picket line?
Employees of unions who are not members of the bargaining unit taking job action may choose not to cross the picket line or not to perform their duties in the normal way.
However, please be aware that the university will not provide compensation to employees who withdraw their services in order to not cross the picket line or for the purpose of participating in the picketing.
All employees whose positions are designated as essential (within the essential services agreement) are required to perform their essential duties during their scheduled shifts/work days.
I’m a part of another bargaining unit on campus, do I have to attend work during job action and/or cross a picket line?
The university will be operating and no other union is in a legal position to take job action; therefore, employees are expected to come to work; however, some employees of certain bargaining units have the specific rights regarding picket lines within their respective collective agreement. Employees can consult their respective collective agreements.
I’m exempt of a bargaining unit, what are my responsibilities during job action?
All exempt, or out-of-scope, employees are expected to attend work and support the university’s contingency efforts.
Employees in scope of CUPE 1975 have asked about their ability to cross the picket line and continue to work during job action. Can members of CUPE 1975 continue to work during job action, and how may this effect their employment status as members of CUPE 1975?
CUPE 1975 is the exclusive bargaining agent of its members, but they cannot force members to take job action. As an employer, the university cannot, and will not, offer any inducement or incentive to employees to refrain from taking job action. However, it should be clearly understood that in the event of a job action, the university will:
- Allow employees who are members of CUPE 1975 to continue working if they so choose;
- Ensure to the full extent of our ability that such employees are provided a safe place of employment during and after job action;
- Continue their employment post-job action as provided in law and policy;
- Investigate and address any demonstrable incidents of bullying or harassment as may be reported to us during or after job action.
The university will continue to operate with care, dignity, and respect for all employees, regardless of job action. This includes a commitment to a healthy and safe working environment free from bullying or harassing behaviours. All employees, regardless of whether they are taking job action or not, are expected to act in a manner that reflects the values of our institution and adheres to respective policies.
Can a member of CUPE 1975 lose their job at the university if they are expelled from the union?
Legislation in Saskatchewan limits the ability of unions to require employers to assist the union in enforcing union disciplinary measures. If an employee continues to pay union dues, he or she is deemed to maintain membership in the union regardless of any expulsion by the union. The legislative protection in Saskatchewan prevents a union from forcing an employer to terminate expelled members.