||Volume 22, Number 5, March 2010
Your teacher’s pension after the consultation
By Rob Taylor
The BCTF pension consultation meetings wrapped up when the online survey closed at midnight on Friday, December 4, 2009.
Pension committee members and BCTF staff led meetings with pension plan members in every local in the province to discuss the Inflation Adjustment Account (IAA) and the ability to index pensions into the future. Seventy-nine meetings were held with over 5,000 teachers, principals, district administrators, and retirees attending. The meetings provided presenters with a great deal of feedback.
The online survey had a total of 8,207 respondents with representation from all members of the plan and all local associations. 55% of the respondents were active teachers and 45% were retirees. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the two-thirds of active teachers responding were over 45 years of age and one-third of active teachers were under 45. This is likely due to the teachers’ distance from retirement age. As one respondent stated, “Your pension suddenly becomes much more important to you when you’re about to retire!”
The survey results took two forms, quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data (the numbers) showed strong support for maintaining full indexing, with 88% of the respondents expressing that desire. They also indicated strongly (75.6%) that they were willing to match employer contributions with contributions of their own in order to achieve full indexing.
Given other indexing options, if full indexing was not achievable, teachers were in favour of sustainable but limited indexing. If there were to be changes to the way that pensions are currently indexed, those surveyed gave a higher degree of approval (60.7%) to sustainable indexing and somewhat less (50.2%) to indexing beginning at age 60.
There was very little desire to limit indexing to avoid a contribution increase. Teachers were clear that they are willing to contribute more to provide stability in spending power.
Survey respondents showed strong support (67%) for maintaining the subsidy currently provided for the extended health benefit, if possible. But, also indicated support for a combination of sustainable indexing, no subsidy for benefits, and slight increase in contributions.
The qualitative data (written comments) represented a significant amount of information, with comments filling over 300 pages of text. As well, the BCTF received over 100 letters and more than 300 e-mails expressing concerns and opinions. The research department team coded the written comments and found that they expressed strong emotions, as well as some fear and apprehension about the situation.
Many respondents reflected on previous strikes and actions which took place to preserve or improve pensions for the benefit of all members. They expressed the hope that active teachers would not “abandon their retired colleagues,” but continue to work to maintain a financially sound pension plan. Others expressed fear of slipping into poverty or being unable to access healthcare.
The general tone from retirees was one of anxiety. The anxiety is caused by future uncertainty. Many respondents expressed their thanks for being included in the process.
The BCTF Executive Committee will be bringing forward recommendations to the BCTF Annual General Meeting in March. These recommendations are meant to give the Trustees of the Teachers’ Pension Plan feedback with regard to inflation protection, so that the decisions they make are tempered by that information.
The Executive Committee recommendations will come out in a supplementary report to the Annual General Meeting immediately following their February meeting.
– Rob Taylor, BCTF Income Security Division