The government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union have reached an agreement on post-retirement benefits for members of the OPSEU pension plan, OPTrust.

Under the agreement, members who are currently working and have a least 10 years of service when they retire on or after Jan. 1, 2017, will be able to choose between two options.

1. Plan A: Receive the existing benefits coverage but pay 50 per cent of the cost of their premiums; or

2. Plan B: Receive a modified benefits package (priced by the province at 50 per cent of Plan A in 2016) and the province will pay 100 per cent of the premiums.

Other changes include that OPTrust members who retire before Jan. 1, 2017 will continue to receive the existing plan at no charge and those who retired after Feb. 18, 2014 will be eligible to apply to restricted competitions in their OPSEU bargaining unit with their seniority intact as if they were still working, up until Dec. 31, 2017.

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“The biggest change here, of course, is the first one,” said Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, in a letter to members, noting that on Feb. 18, 2014, the government announced it would force all OPTrust members to pay half the cost of their post-retirement benefit premiums, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

“For single individuals, that would have been a cost of roughly $900 per year. For members with families, the cost would have been about $1,600. Given that the average pension of an OPTrust member is under $21,000 a year, this was not a small cost to bear.”

OPSEU is providing members with a plan comparison chart so they can determine which option to choose. Thomas notes in his letter that he believes Plan B is a marked improvement over what the government had offered up until now.

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The changes include:

  • Drug benefits: A move from 90 per cent coverage of drug benefits to a 90 per cent coverage until the age of eligibility for the Ontario Drug Benefit, at which point the coverage will be reduced to 75 per cent to a maximum of $10,000 a year per covered person.
  • Paramedicals: Under the previous plan, paramedical services such as massage therapy, physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments were $25 per visit to a maximum of $1,200 per year per patient, while psychology and speech therapy services were $25 per half-hour visit with a $1,400 maximum per calendar year. Under the new plan, there’s a combined maximum of $500 per person per year at 100 per cent of eligible claims cost.
  • Dental: These changes include a move from a $50 per year deductible to no annual deductible. Basic dental is also moving from 85 per cent coverage to 75 per cent coverage to a maximum of $1,500 per year. Services such as dentures, major restorative and orthodontic treatments were previously covered under the plan, but are no longer covered under the new plan.
  • Other health services/supplies: Items such as ambulance services, wheelchair rentals, casts and prosthetics were previously covered at 100 per cent unless otherwise specified. The new plan is a 75 per cent reimbursement.

“As much as possible, we gave up only things members were unlikely to need in retirement, such as orthodontics. Or we stretched timelines for accessing certain benefits, such as eyeglasses. Or we accepted that, in some cases, members would have to pay a small deductible for using a service. For paramedical services like physiotherapy or chiropractic treatments, we opted to take 100 per cent payments up to a maximum amount instead of $25 per visit to a higher amount,” said Thomas.

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The union’s campaign to negotiate for these benefits has been underway for some time, including divisional meetings, emails sent to the premier and every member of parliament, as well as face-to-face lobbying, according to the union.

“We knew from the start that the attack on retiree benefits was an unfair attack on thousands of working people who had given a lifetime of service to the province,” said Thomas. “We knew the victims would be low-income seniors, and mostly women – two groups the Kathleen Wynne government has repeatedly claimed to care about. We just kept on driving the point home. . . .

“This new deal settles all our grievances around retiree benefits in a way that I believe most OPTrust members will find more than satisfactory.”

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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Gordon Davey:

Why was my June pension reduced by $ 7.42 ?????

Wednesday, June 26 at 6:30 am | Reply

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