Retired teachers return to work, not eligible to contribute to pension

Saskatchewan colleges limit retirement benefits

Teachers at a group of Saskatchewan colleges who continue to teach after retirement are not able to contribute to the pension plan at the same time they are receiving such benefits, an arbitrator has decided.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) filed the grievance against the Northwest Regional, Great Plains, Cumberland Regional, Carlton Trail Regional and Parkland Regional colleges.

Of particular concern for the union is that teachers who have retired and are receiving pension payments have returned to work — but are not being able to contribute further to the pension plan as an employee.

The collective agreement clearly states all eligible employees, by definition, are able to contribute to the pension plan, according to the SGEU.

Complicating the matter, however, is the teachers are governed by three different superannuation plans — the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Superannuation Plan, the Municipal Employees’ Pension Act and the Teachers Superannuation and Disability Benefits Act. All teachers in the province are governed by the former two.

Retirees who "return to teaching positions, in which they would normally contribute to the plan, make no further contributions to the pension fund, nor can they accumulate any further service with the plan, " according to those plans.

"Superannuates may, however, continue to provide teaching services without their allowances being reduced."

That means retired employees can continue to work without a reduction in the allowances and benefits they receive under the plan.

However, once an employee begins to receive such allowances, they are not permitted to make further contributions to that plan, despite having returned to his former teaching duties.

The SGEU argued that, apart from any retirement schemes, a teacher by definition is an employee entitled under the collective agreement to contribute to the pension and have the employer match those contributions.

But the employer disagreed it was under any such obligation.

In his decision, arbitrator William Hood said the matter came down to a statutory interpretation of the collective agreement and governing legislation.

Because the collective agreement simply says to refer to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Superannuation Plan, it leaves little room for interpretation, he said.

"I agree with the employer because I cannot accept the parties would have intended this short and general provision to have the somewhat esoteric, yet significant, meaning the union is proposing," the decision reads. "Anything more specific would require explicit language, particularly because a pension plan scheme is more detailed and also subject to a collective bargaining process."

As such, the grievance was dismissed.

Reference: Northwest Regional College, Great Plains College, Cumberland Regional College, Carlton Trail Regional College, Parkland Regional College and the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU). William F.J. Hood — arbitrator. Brian Kenny for the employer, Greg Eyre for the union. Oct. 29, 2014.

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