Unit 1 Benefits Improvements Effective September 2012

Sathish PichikaNews, Unit 1

We are pleased to announce two important improvements to Unit 1 Benefits, which will take effect on September 1, 2012. These improvements were made possible by $30,000 in new benefits funding negotiated during collective bargaining in the fall of 2012.

A Health Spending Account will replace the Vision Care Benefit. The entitlement will remain $250/two years.  The Health Spending Account will enable members to claim a wide range of medical, dental and pharmaceutical expenses — as well as any vision-related expenses such as glasses, contacts and eye exams.  A list of eligible expenses will be provided on our website in September.

Unit 1 members who pay for UHIP will also see their yearly UHIP Rebate increased to $150 from $100.

Unit 1 Members will still have access to the Child Care Benefit($100/year) and the Hardship Fund (up to $500/year except in exceptional circumstances).

Unit 1 Members with contracts totaling 130 hours or more in a given academic year will continue to have access to the CUPE 3906 dental plan.


Who is eligible for Unit 1 Benefits?

The Health Spending Account, UHIP Rebate Fund, Child Care Benefit and Hardship Fund are open to ALL Unit 1 members. You are a Unit 1 member if you are currently working as a TA or RA in lieu at McMaster OR you have worked as a TA or RA in lieu at McMaster in one of the last two terms. The dental plan is open to TAs or RAs in lieu with contracts totaling 130 hours or more in a given academic year (except undergrad TAs).

What sorts of expenses does the Health Spending Account Cover?

The Health Spending Account is meant to help members with the cost of medical, dental and pharmaceutical costs that are not adequately covered by OHIP, UHIP or the GSA plan. Eligible expenses included, but are not limited to: prescription drugs, glasses, contact lenses, eye exams, dental procedures such as crowns or bridges,  casts, crutches, etc. Not sure if an expense will qualify? Email: benefits@cupe3906.org.

Will I be able to use the Health Spending Account for the vision-related expenses I used to be able to claim with Vision Care?

Yes. Glasses, contact lenses, eye exams and any other vision-related expense formerly covered by the Vision Care Benefit can now be claimed using the Health Spending Account.

How were these changes made?

The changes to Unit 1 Members (TAs and RAs in lieu) are the result of a motion made at the July 25 GMM. Members were presented with a three packages of recommended changes put together by the Benefits Committee. The recommended changes were based on feedback provided at benefits consultations and in the benefits survey. After a discussion of each package, a motion to adopt the first package of changes was made and carried.

Why did we decide to spend the new $30,000 on benefits? 

Under the terms of the Unit 1 collective agreement, the new funds must be used for Unit 1 benefits.  We would be in violation of the collective agreement if we used the money for any other purpose.

Why are we making improvements to our benefits at a time when budgets are being reduced across the public sector? Shouldn’t we be tightening our belts instead?

Under the terms of the Unit 1 collective agreement, the new funds must be used for Unit 1 benefits. The Employer does not save any money if we refuse to use these funds for benefits. Moreover, these new funds represent the first increase to Unit 1 benefits in three years.  Unit 1 members are also in the midst of a two year wage freeze.

I have no use for extra health coverage, child care or the UHIP rebate. Can I opt out of these benefits?

Since the above named benefits are provided at no cost to members (claims are paid out with money from the Unit 1 Benefits Fund, which is in turn 100% funded by the Employer), there is no way to opt out of these benefits. To put it another way, you cannot opt out of a benefit that you do not pay into. Members with alternate coverage may opt out of the dental plan, which is a traditional premium-based plan that members do contribute to.