MSA Fall General Meeting Q&A

November 17, 2023 - by admin - in Uncategorized

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The following questions were asked by MSA members during the in-person and virtual meetings.

Q. The President reported on the upcoming trends regarding the Gig Economy, Artificial Intelligence, Mental Health & Additions, Trauma Informed Support, Restorative Practices and Integrating Diversity.  Can you provide additional details about specific steps being taken to recognize them?

A. The primary way to influence the impact of these trends on the workplace is through collective bargaining, so we encourage you to participate in the tidbit cafés and bargaining surveys.  Other things we have done is that the MSA President and Executive Director meet regularly with the University President, Dr. Trimbee, as well as the Provost, Dr. Monk and other senior MacEwan Administration to advocate for MSA members. In April, we raised security on campus as an ongoing concern, and this was acknowledged by MacEwan arranging for EPS to hold a townhall in August to assist staff in feeling safer on campus. Sarah Alexander also raised the staff concern of increasing mental health concerns. MSA, along with the Faculty Association and University financially supported the development of the new Working Essentials Program. Those are just a few examples. MSA will also properly consider diversity practices in our own hiring.  We would like to hear your feedback on the Working Essentials Program, as well as anything we can do to move forward as an organization.

Q. Regarding the reserve funds on the financial statements, how much is sufficient and how long will it take to have enough for arbitration and strike funds?

A. There are two kinds of arbitrations: grievance arbitrations (rights) and bargaining arbitrations (interest).  The target of $200,000 for arbitration reserves is for defending rights already outlined in the collective agreement and is still sufficient. It is common to spend $10,000 to $15,000 a year, occasionally up to $50,000 up to $100,000 and we replenish that in the budget, keeping a balance between $200,000 to $250,000.  That has been our historical practice and has worked well.

Our general operating account is maintained at three months operating budget to ensure we can pay our bills in a timely manner.  The reserves for operations have an additional $400,000 to pay operating expenses during a scenario where revenue stops but office operations must continue. This money is already saved for scenarios like a strike or lockout when dues revenue would stop and should be sufficient.

The specific labour disruption fund would pay for strike pay to members in the event of labour disruption if the members would vote to pull their services from the employer.  Then members wouldn’t get paid, and strike pay would come out of this fund. This is not enough. It has been estimated that we would need about $2.5 million. One of my priorities as Executive Director is to manage our finances to ensure we have surpluses to go to these reserves. Before this year, although we had money in the bank it was not dedicated for specific purposes. This year we put in $100,000 and it actually internally restricted it for labour disruption reserves. If we can do that every year, it will take 25 years, but if we can find other ways to build these reserves it could go faster.  One proposal suggested that MSA has never previously discussed bit is used in other organizations is that when members pass away, they bequeath some money to the union.  It is a conversation that we should start having, how our members would like us to build this and different ways to promote it.  We have also changed some of our investment practices to gain more interest income.

Capital reserves should be built further but are not the primary priority. This will be impacted by such things as tenancy arrangements and expectations from the University, which I touched on in my report, but which are still unknown.

Q. How long have we carried a balance of around $500,000 in ‘Cash – Operating’?

A. The balance has been building for the last number of years and operating “cash” was held in various chequing or savings accounts.  Recently we changed some of our investment strategies to get more interest income by laddering GICs with a set amount ($10,000) going into a new 1-year GIC every two weeks.  When it matures, it goes back into the operating account.  This gives us a higher interest rate because it’s locked in for a year, but still provides liquidity.

Q. Since 2023 was the first year we’ve been putting money into these restricted funds, is the growth going to be less significant going forward?

A. We hope we can increase interest and other revenue going forward, but that will also depend on interest rates. We will be meeting with our bank in the near future to discuss how we can get better interest but still ensure sufficient liquidity in accordance to MSA’s policies.  With GIC’s, we could still cash them in at any time but may lose the interest so it might be beneficial to put some money into longer term GICs. 

Q. The note disclosure that we have on the financial statement, does it outline a little bit of a plan on how we’re going to be allocating those funds to restricted going forwaQ. Where does it outline how we’re going to be allocating reserve funds going forward?rd?

A. The Board governance policies specify that and are the marching orders of what I may and may not do. Specifically, they can be found in the member-only section of the MSA website under Governance and are in Policy EL #10. They are actually pretty good. 

Q. Is there a possibility of moving the funds around or change the order of priority? For example, if we’ve only been using between $10,000 – $15,000 for arbitrations every year, do we need $200,000 in that reserve, or is it possible to move some to labour disruption if needed.

A. Yes, it is possible because it is the member’s money. The membership, through the proper process and vote, can approve almost anything. In this case, we must follow the Board-approved policy until that policy is changed.  These reserves are recommended for a union of our size, but if circumstances required a strike, that would need to be approved by the members in a vote, and the conversation would certainly include how it would be funded. 

Q. Will casuals qualify for the Professional Development Direct Reimbursement Pilot Program?

A. Yes, that is the current plan.

Q. Is $1000 from $700 to the Health Spending Account permanent?

A. Yes, it is now considered part of the plan design going forward. 

Q. Will the change-over in Benefits Carriers impact treatment that overlaps between carriers?

A. It is my understanding that it should be seamless because if it’s approved, it should still be approved. If there is an issue, let us know and we will follow-up with HR Benefits.

Q. There are reasonable and customary limits and lifetime maximums that are specified in our plan. But there are also the ones that benefit providers consider to be the market (like the dental fee guide). Has it been decided what those are?

A. The ones that have been specified in the plan (e.g.: the increases to the mentioned EDI factors) have been decided. Others specified in the plan design or benefit carrier contract will stay the same.  Some are listed as a maximum of “reasonable and customary limits” by the benefits provider and we have not fully discussed those.  Generally speaking, if we make changes to the benefits provider’s normal process or “reasonable and customary limits” is discouraged by our Benefits Consultants because it introduces more possibility of errors in the processing of claims.

Q. Is there an effective date for the jurisdictional transition?

A. Some will be immediate, and others will take some transition time.  For example, non-credit instructors will transition as their employment contracts are renewed, which will be approximately May of next year. Reasonably, they can’t drag it on forever, but it won’t be all at once. 

Q. Why are there two separate general meetings?

A. It was a decision we made because the University no longer was offering the same level of support for hybrid meetings.  We chose to offer in-person and virtual separately so that we could self-administer it easier.  In addition, we received feedback that sometimes members have a scheduling conflict and are not able to attend so offering two meetings gave members a better chance of fitting it into their busy day and it doesn’t change the voting because that was solely conducted by SurveyMonkey anyway. It seems that attendance is up this year (combined) so we are pleased with that outcome.   If you have comments or feedback, please let us know.

Q. Do you have any updates on how close we are to meeting the criteria for the additional raise as per the Alberta GDP and when will we find this final number by?

A.  It looks promising but we understand the provincial government will be reviewing the GDP – Gain sharing formula in February 2024. If we are eligible, it will be retroactive to Dec 1 2023.

Q. Can you provide an overview of the expenses on the financial statements?

A.  The document in the Fall Agenda Package is the audited financial statements with a year over year perspective of trends. This doesn’t show the approved budget. The MSA budget is set in the spring, financial statements are presented in the fall. Every spring, a budget is presented to the MSA membership for approval. The MSA Board monitors the expenses that the staff spend in accordance to the approved budget.

Included with the Financial Statements in the agenda package is a document called ‘Audited Financial Statement Line Items’. This will give you an overview of what is generally included in each expense category.

  • Release time went down (see answer below).
  • Meetings and hospitality expenses increased because we do have more people and returned to having in-person dinners in conjunction with our General Meetings
  • Operations was within budget.
  • Policy Governance includes work with consultants
  • Scholarships and awards are given out to our members, their dependents and sutdents.
  • Labour Relations legal fees are based on the cases we get and what we have to fight on behalf of members. Legal expenses were very low in 2022, which is not normal, which is why there was an increase in 2023 to a more typical amount. We budget to replenish reserves if we need to use money to keep the balance within target.
  • Staff development and travel was kept within reason.

Q. What is the Release time expense, which has spending of $37,405?

A. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, we were still paying some release time as per Article 8.4 of the Collective Agreement for the past President, as well as the MSA Vice-President.  In our upcoming budget we expect less release time expense.

Q. The salary expenses have increased by more than 16%, is this due to salary hikes?

A. The salary line item on the financial statements is an aggregate that includes movement up the grid, any negotiated cost-of-living increases, reclassification and severance expenses.  All staff are treated consistent with the collective agreement that applies to members and the expected costs are included in the approved budget. 

Q. Will there be increased security on campus?

A.  EPS was invited to present at an employee townhall and we are aware that they are hiring additional Security staff.  The University has committed to more direct-hires and minimizing contracting to Securi-guard which they’re transitioning over the next six months or so.

Q.  What happened to the $81,000 in short-term investments?

A.  This is a change in the way we report our financial statements so that the assets are identified by what they are reserved for instead of which bank account they are in.  We actually have more money in GICs but it is listed on the financial statements as part of the restricted reserves.

Please refer to the Governance Policies EL 8 through EL 12 on the MSA members-only section of the website.

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