After wages, pensions and benefits are the biggest monetary items in a collective agreement. Usually, the specific provisions of a pension or benefits plan are laid out in a plan booklet, not the collective agreement. This is why it is important to include details about pension and benefits rights in your local’s agreement.
Too often, when women workers and workers from other equality-seeking groups retire, they face the impact of a lifetime of lower pay. This is often due to interruptions in their career (for example for child rearing), and a relative lack of access to pension plans. A lifetime of unequal wages means retiring in poverty.
Pension and benefit plans need to be designed to make sure they don’t discriminate against lower-waged workers and part-time workers. They should also make specific reference to same-sex partners and dependents from same-sex relationships. Recent legal cases have found it discriminatory to exclude same-sex relationships from benefits and pension plans.
HIV/AIDS medications can cost hundreds of dollars each month. That’s why it’s important to ensure our benefit plans provide coverage for these life-saving medications.
Review all pension and benefit plans to make sure they provide the same level of benefits to all your members, especially disadvantaged groups such as members with disabilities. Avoid two-tier and flexible (cafeteria-style) benefit plans because such plans do not provide members with equal coverage.
A benefit plan should provide:
- Employer-funded long-term disability benefits with no pre-existing condition exclusions
- A broad definition for dependent coverage
- Good extended health care coverage that includes all prescription drugs, medical devices, and para-medical services, and private duty nursing
- Vision care
- Dental plans at current rates
Because costs for long-term disability plans are increasing, some employers are looking at cost-cutting measures, such as exclusions for pre-existing conditions. These cause significant hardship for members with disabilities whose conditions existed prior to working with the current employer.