On track for establishing a joint health science benefits trust by April 2016

A Working Group established as part of the 2014-2019 Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association collective agreement has been working for the past year to take the steps required to establish a Joint Health Science Benefits Trust, which will be a jointly trusteed plan to administer members’ benefits.

Under this plan, to be established by April 1, 2016, members’ benefits will be managed like your pension – by a specialized and balanced group that meets the needs of both sides. It will allow for shared administration and decision-making about participation in and management of your benefits. The agenda will no longer be set by the short-term needs of government negotiators.

A key element of working towards joint trusteeship of the plan is gaining access to all the financial data and other information about the administration of your benefit plan. Assisted by a team of legal, actuarial and benefit specialists, the Working Group is seeking a level of transparency and disclosure that protects the long term interests of HSPBA members. And the Working Group is already seeing the benefit of that access.

When the books were opened up to the union representatives, we learned that surpluses were being generated from both member and employer contributions to the LTD plan. The LTD plan is funded 30 per cent by member contributions, and 70 per cent by employer contributions.

The surpluses, which began to accumulate in late 2012, resulted from exceptional investment returns combined with lower than expected rates of disability. These surpluses were accumulating even as government and employer negotiators had a bargaining agenda to reduce benefits for members, claiming the funds were at risk of being underfunded.

The Working Group has achieved an agreement to establish a Member Premiums Trust Account to secure the assets resulting from the portion of surplus member contributions to the LTD fund. These funds will be used exclusively to protect and improve health and welfare benefits for HSPBA members when the jointly trusteed trust is in place in April 2016.

Had it not been for the creation of the joint trust and the working group, HSPBA would have no knowledge of any surplus entitlement which might be accruing for the benefit of our members.

As the Working Group moves into the next phase: concluding a trust agreement spelling out the terms of governing the trust, we are confident that joint trusteeship is already paying off for members by ensuring members have improved oversight of the health and welfare benefit plans they rely on.

HSPBA is the bargaining association that negotiates on behalf of health science professionals who deliver health care services in BC hospitals and communities. A majority of health science professionals are represented by the Health Sciences Association of BC. Other unions in the Association are the BC Government and Service Employees Union, Professional Employees Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees and Hospital Employees' Union.