Support all Surrey teachers who parent! Reinstate parental benefits for adoptive parents!
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Did you know that the Surrey School District and the Surrey Teachers Association have negotiated and implemented a discriminatory policy just this past year? For many years in our collective agreement, both birth moms and adoptive moms and dads had equal access to top up benefits, 2 weeks with top-up to 95% of their salary then 15 weeks to 70% of their salary. The STA and District 36 recently negotiated a new change in our contract which increased the length of top up benefits to 23 weeks for birth moms, but they did it at the expense of access to top-up benefits for adoptive parents and dads, who now are only entitled to 8 weeks top -up. While it is important to recognize that it is a good thing that the STA wants to improve benefits for birth moms, it is unethical to do so by sacrificing the benefits of adoptive parents.
In 2011, the STA had filed a grievance alleging that the School District’s failure to provide 15 weeks of Supplemental Employment Benefits (SEB) in respect of EI parental benefits to birth mothers was discriminatory (see Collective Agreement article G.21.4.e.iii). In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that it was indeed discriminatory to deny birth mothers access to this EI top up. On May 19, 2016, a new resolution was reached regarding the STA’s Parental Leave grievance. However, what the STA and SD36 did to resolve this grievance was to in fact negotiate and implement a new policy which now discriminates against adoptive parents and birth fathers.
My husband and I are both elementary teachers in the Surrey School district. On April 10, 2017, my husband and I began a parental leave to support the adoption of our youngest son. The choosing of this particular date for our parental leave to commence was based on the information provided in our collective agreement and the information found on the website of the Surrey Teachers Association and our past experience with adoptive/parental leave in the district. I had been a teacher in the district for 28 years and took maternity leave 4 separate times and also adopted 5 children during that time. The policy was always the same. Whether I adopted a child or gave birth to a child, I was provided with the option of top-up pay to 95% for 2 weeks, then top-up pay to 70% of my salary for the following 15 weeks.
You can imagine our shock when my husband and I discovered that the school district had not given us our full top up pay. When we phoned our payroll department, they informed us that they were just going by the new district policy and that it was now only 8 weeks not 15 weeks for the 70% top-up pay. The president of the STA confirmed that the policy was changed so that adoptive parents and dads may now only access 8 weeks of top-up pay rather than 15 weeks. She stated that our union had re-negotiated this clause in the contract with the district. She stated that because they were trying to increase the number of weeks of top-up pay for birth mothers, they had to sacrifice the number of weeks for top-up pay for adoptive parents in exchange.
This new discriminatory policy, which has not been well advertised in our district, placed our family in a very difficult financial position. This new policy also makes us feel as though adoptive parents are not valued as much as birth parents by our union and by our district because the policy discriminates against teachers who are adoptive parents or birth dads. The president tried to explain to us that the decision was made to extend birth mothers weeks because she feels they have more of an adjustment to make than adoptive parents or dads. I told her that we had adopted five children from the Ministry of Children and Families(with special needs including developmental delays, PTSD, FASD, and RAD), and that a huge adjustment and transition time is often required when you adopt children. As both an adoptive mother and a birth mother, the adjustment for adoptive parents can be sometimes more challenging and require more time for the transition because there are often other factors that make it a challenge.
This new policy and change in our collective agreement is unjust and unfair. Yes, birth mothers should be given added benefits, but not at the expense of adoptive mothers and other parents. Our oldest daughter is also a teacher in the Surrey School district and is about to give birth to our grandchild. While I am thrilled that she is now able to access 23 weeks of top-up benefits to 70%, I believe that adoptive parents and birth dads should have been able to at least retain their access to 15 weeks of benefits for top up pay to 70%.
I am asking you to sign this petition so that the Surrey Teachers Association and Surrey School district will be encouraged to reconsider their recent negotiation and change the collective agreement to restore the benefits of 15 weeks at 70% top up previously provided for adoptive parents and birth dads. Let’s put an end to discrimination in our district and recognize that families come in different forms. All Surrey teachers who choose to parent should be valued and supported.
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