April 2016 – News And Views Express

The Government of Alberta has stopped sending out driver’s license renewal notices. Please be diligent in checking your license to see if it is valid on or before your birthday. So many Local 583 members rely on their license to do their job and it has become a huge hardship when their license is not renewed. The Government now offers an email reminder service, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the license holder to renew their license. Arbitral law has a minimum two week suspension for those members who forget to renew before operating a Transit vehicle.
ATU Local 583 started up a Group Insurance Plan for its members in 1957. The cost of the plan was $3.27 for single and $3.70 for family. Optional age and smoking banded insurance was also available at specifically set rates. This plan continues to grow and currently has 1,000 members.

Although not a lot of information on the history of the plan is available, during the period of 18% interest rates the plan reserves flourished. This allowed all increases in premiums to be absorbed by the plan reserves. With the advent of the low interest rates of the last decade, the premiums have been increasing and the reserve fund has been shrinking while absorbing the costs of the increasing premiums. To the point, Local 583 pays almost $25,000 monthly for this coverage, but only receives about $12,000 a month to pay the premiums. Thusly, we are depleting our reserve fund to a point that it will be empty in less than three years.

The Bylaw Committee and Executive Board recognized a change was needed. The Bylaws were changed to maintain the sustainability of the plan by increasing member contributions to their premiums. The membership supported this decision at a Special Called Meeting on February 22, 2016. This bylaw allows the plan: to make annual adjustments based on the plan’s experience, the possibility of further ratio changes if needed, and the opportunity for the plan to get through tough financial times versus collapsing. The impact to plan members resulted in the smallest premium increase the Committee felt was acceptable that could be made to ensure the survival of the plan. There is now an obligation for plan members to pay $4.74 for single coverage and $6.52 for family coverage. The $20,000 optional coverage is still fully funded by the plan members and based on five year age bands starting at age 40. A bulletin will be posted showing the cost changes. This rate change will be effective May 30th, 2016 and show up on pay advice slips in pay period 13.

Features our plan members need to remember: you may opt-out of your insurance at any time, but please don’t, it is still a great value as insurance plans go (compare it to any brochures or advertising you see), non-members may apply at any time with proof of insurability, it is a term life plan which pays only when you pass away or as a rebate when the member retires.
Calgary Transit issues “leave accrual” forms to all employees annually, and it’s a good idea to compare the dates to what you have taken for holidays to ensure that everything balances out. This is when you get the opportunity to question any discrepancies in the records. Currently there are a number of members who have been running at a minus for accrued vacation entitlement and the City is now taking steps to bring everyone back into balance.

In the past when an Operator asked Dispatch for a book off, Dispatch would respond “paid or unpaid?” Most took a paid book off because ultimately the Operator had various sources to pull time from. However, if there wasn’t any time accrued from the selected bank, the hours would get taken from your annual vacation allotment. When your scheduled vacation came along, you would still get your time off but your hours balance would start to drop on your entitlement. You wouldn’t necessarily notice the change until your leave balances showed zero hours or your pay was short any overdrawn hours.

For some members the vacation balance became unfavourable, leaving them with unpaid vacation weeks. Dispatch has started contacting any Operators who are in the minus situation and have given them the option of taking their scheduled time off without pay or voluntarily giving it up to work spare (if their shift had gone to a bid) for that week. Being given this choice didn’t mess up any pre-planned trip arrangements the Operator might have made, but it certainly had an impact on their payday. Further, Dispatch now is not always asking if you would like the BO paid or unpaid and this puts the onus on the Operator to mention it. If you have time in any of your banks you can request your book off as paid.

Most people want to clear up any shortfalls so they won’t have any surprises on payday (there have been times when there was a communication gap and unpaid vacation time did occur). If you have been contacted by Dispatch, talk to them to discuss what works best for you, whether that’s taking the time off without pay or giving up the vacation time to work that week.
Please make sure you record your vacation selection and keep track of what you’ve taken so you can double check the leave accrual form when it comes and there shouldn’t be any surprises. Members can follow their leave balances in the bottom left corner of the pay advice slip.
Due to some recent days off assignments for “spare board” being distributed incorrectly, Local 583 would like to remind Spare Operators of the process. Spare Operators can give a first and second choice; if your first and second choice are the same, your second choice becomes days off in seniority. If no choice is made, days off will be assigned in seniority in this order: Sunday, Saturday, Statutory Holiday, Monday, Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday.
Currently, online provisions have been made for Operators to offer to work stats and Sundays, which could allow more junior Operators to get “better” days off. On the other side, there is only so much stat and Sunday work so if senior spare Operators choose days off around stats and Sundays they will get those premium shifts. If an Operator feels their days off assignment is in error, contact Dispatch immediately to investigate why. If an explanation is not forthcoming, contact the Union office.
It is very important to note that if you are off on vacation and you become ill at any point during your time away, that you contact the employer as soon as possible and go on the sick list. Then you need to secure the appropriate care with a medical practitioner, as required. If you will be away for more than five vacation days, supporting medical documentation (APS if possible) will be required so this evidence can be submitted to the proper authority as soon as you are able to submit it. This will allow Management to cancel the balance of your vacation and credit it accordingly to be taken another time. Your vacation is a negotiated benefit with your employer and time that you have earned to be away from work with full pay while in good health.
We would also like to remind members to exercise due diligence when it comes to extra billing by Doctors and Dentists. The rates vary between medical practitioners, therefore it is in the member’s best interest to shop around and get the best rates possible.
Please remember if you injure yourself while on shift you should fill out WCB paperwork. If you get any push-back on getting a form, go online and fill it out. Also, alert the Union office with the name of the person who refused you the WCB form so we can take appropriate action.
Local 583 would like to give a big shout out to all members that worked on Roop Rai’s campaign in Calgary Greenway. While it is noted that not all of the membership supports the NDP, they are the only Alberta Provincial Government in recent history who offers and continues to meet with Labour.
The 22nd Annual AFL Kid’s Camp is on August 8th to 12th, 2016 and camp is open to children ages 8-15. Full details and camp registration forms will be available soon. Look for more information in our usual posting locations. The AFL is currently looking for Leaders/Junior Counselors for this camp, please contact the Union office if you would like to apply for a position.

Thursday April 28th, 2016 is the National Day of Mourning. If you can find time in your busy schedule to be at the south side of City Hall at noon, there will be a remembrance of workers killed and injured in the workplace. The Local would like to present as many members as possible.

Congratulations on their Retirement 2016
William Courtney – Operator – 13.5 years – February
Michael Kennedy – Operator – 36 years – February
Kenneth Frey – Operator – 38 years –February
Heidi McCartney – Operator – 25 years – March
Doug Hein – Operator – 17.5 years – March
Andrija (Andy) Mirosavljevic – Maintenance – 34.5 years – March
Noel Barron – Operator – 37.5 years – March
Hilda Thomson – Office – 37 years – March
Kruno Bugar – Maintenance – 35 years – March

Thank You Cards Received:
Calgary Worker’s Resource Centre
Fuze Entertainment
Rod Millar
Doug Morgan

For Your Information: ATU Local 583 has launched its Twitter page – bringing you frequent updates of goings on at the Local as well as pertinent info to Union members. Follow us @atulocal583

Contibutors this month
Rick Ratcliff – President/Business Agent
Neil Armitage– Executive Vice President/Assistant Business Agent
Zul Vira – Financial Secretary/Treasurer
Bill Johnson – Recording Secretary/Maintenance/Office

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