Encourage NBNU leadership to further explore and educate their membership on LTD options

Encourage NBNU leadership to further explore and educate their membership on LTD options

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It is with respect to NBNU leadership, dues paying members and subsection 8.04 of the NBNU constitution that I draft this petition for the consideration of members to support a deeper inquiry by NBNU into the pros and cons of employer versus member-paid long term disability (LTD). Further, I would respectfully request that once a formal, detailed and concise comparisonbe drafted by NBNU leadership that it be disseminated to membership for consideration. My hope is that this process helps to discover the majority position of general membership on the issue, promotes comprehensive “education” and instills “unity” on the issue amongst members. For context, subsection 8.04 of the constitution states that the union shall promote education and unity among its membership. 

A recent NBNU release to members regarding LTD outlined the following paraphrased positions that current leadership supports:

1. In a member funded LTD, if it was not compulsory, then the premiums for members would certainly increase.

2. If the employer paid the premiums, then the amounts would be taxed when paid out to the sick employee.

3. The current LTD plan also provides additional benefits at a time when a member is most vulnerable – when they are put off work due to disability.

4. A union is a collective of people and we respect everyone’s right to voice their opinion; however, as a collective, we cannot allow ill or disabled members to fall through the cracks at a time when they need financial assistance. 

5. Rather than remove the protection that LTD offers, we are trying to improve the working conditions to lessen the need for LTD in the first place, which would lead to fewer claims and then decreased premiums. This isn’t a quick fix though.

 

The heart of the debate (if there is allowed to be one) lies in whether members are better served on a short and long term basis in a member or employer paid system. Statement 5 outlined above leads me to believe leadership has closed the door on further educating members and fostering a sense of unity on the matter.  Additionally, it seems the strategy of pursuing improved working conditions has been chosen as the most efficient and beneficial path for members to take in protecting their financial interests regarding LTD. I personally struggle with ending the conversation here for a few reasons.

1. As many of us can attest, working conditions have been on the forefront of membership priorities for a while and despite the unions best efforts there has been no quick fix. These factors that drive up premiums seem impervious to our unified voice and any subsequent lobbying. Rather, this seemingly appears to be an ongoing issue that will persist for years to come as shortages and cost containment by employers are issues that will continue in perpetuity. I struggle to see how pursuing said strategy will bring short, medium or even long term meaningful relief to members feeling the weight of increased LTD premiums making the increased cost of living an immediate challenge. Further, without immediate improvement in work conditions, I fear that premiums will continue to increase and that some members, who may be facing the reality of an affordability crisis in the now will face further pressure. 

2. While no member would ever want to see any of their colleagues “fall through the cracks” if or when they need LTD, can we afford to ignore the possibility that members are currently facing financial strain under the weight of increasing premiums? As cost of living is targeted at 2% annually and wage increases have failed to keep pace, increasing LTD premiums can drastically exacerbate members navigating cost of living in the now. I think it is fair for members to want more detail about how a substantially front-loaded paycheque deduction being taken in the now clearly outweighs the potential any tax implications of an employer-funded plan for members if and when they need it.

3. I feel there is an inherent struggle for dues paying members to accept ever increasing LTD premiums driven by workplace issues that seem beyond their individual or collective ability to rectify. It almost feels punitive and indirectly forces members into ownership of the costs associated with LTD use by peers who are struggling within a system of challenging “working conditions”. 

4. I may be wrong, but as concerns grow louder, I feel that many are questioning what the consensus view of the membership is on the issue. At what point in the process does member’s voicing their “opinions” to executive leadership progress from a situation warranting an official release from NBNU  (that some viewed as dismissive) to a deeper conversation and possible reassessment of the general memberships' view that may subsequently guide the executive?

I would like to afford the benefit of the doubt to leadership that they did intend on fulfilling subsection 8.04 as identified above. However, I feel that many members, including myself, may still be at unease with ending this conversation. I would implore leadership to view any traction that this petition receives as another opportunity to exemplify their views on the importance of upholding subsection 8.04 of the NBNU constitution. Further, I would humbly offer the following suggestions. These are merely thoughts that have crossed my mind and there may be other far better ideas out there. 

1. Provide members with data on the average number of members using LTD annually and the average duration of use of said benefits. 

2. Collect and present data on the annualized percentage rate of increase in LTD premiums the members have paid since inception. Additionally, compare this to annual wage increases over the same period. Is it realistic to think wage increases will keep or exceed the pace of premiums based on past contracts?

3. Solicit the assistant of an accountant and draft an example of how much in tax a full time and or part time employee could expect receive in benefits and pay in taxes under both scenarios. This way members can concretely see how each option could impact them and others.

4. Illustrate how much a member could expect to amass in savings over their career if monthly LTD deductions were placed into an RRSP and achieved the same expected annual returns that Vestcor assumes we will achieve in our pension.

5. Explore the potential and possible implication of a joint funded employee/employer LTD program.

6. Explore the potential of a member funded tax assistance deduction and subsequent fund that may offset/assist members who have increased tax burden when drawing from an employer-funded LTD program.

7. Help members understand better what specific working conditions we are targeting for improvement and expect that we can rectify that will drastically slow increases or decrease LTD deductions

Respectfully ,

A concerned dues paying member of NBNU

P.S.  I have chosen to use the platform of Change.org as it is free compared to a service like survey monkey. I hope leadership in no way sees this as an inflammatory platform to use. Additionally, I opted for this platform as it is a way to measure support without consuming individual leaders time or their respective inboxes with repeated forwarding of e-mails in a show of support for the views above.