OPS Strike Benefits Q&A

Questions and answers about benefits for OPSEU members in the event of a strike or lockout in the Ontario Public Service

Benefits in General

Q1. What insured benefits (basic life insurance, supplementary and dependent life insurance, dental, supplementary health and hospital including drugs, vision care and hearing aids, and LTIP) do we have while we are on strike?

OPSEU strike policy states that prior to a strike, the Central Bargaining Team shall initiate negotiations with the employer to have the employer pay their usual share of premiums (with OPSEU members paying their usual share) for continuance of insured benefits coverage and to have the employer arrange with the insurance carrier(s) to continue coverage as per the collective agreement for all bargaining unit members on strike or lockout. If the employer agrees to continue coverage under the insurance policy, but refuses to pay their usual share of premiums, OPSEU will pay the required premiums for members on strike/lockout. If the employer does not agree to continue coverage, OPSEU will provide a limited benefit package through the OPSEU Joint Trusteed Benefit Fund ($100,000 Life Insurance and extended health coverage).

OPSEU will also supply insured benefit coverage for any member who is off on a pre-existing disability claim who has had his or her coverage terminated as a result of a strike/lockout.

When requested, OPSEU will provide through the OPSEU Joint Trusteed Benefit Fund, insured benefit coverage for members on strike/lockout who do not have insured benefits while at work but would be receiving a percentage in lieu of benefits if not for the strike/lockout. This is applicable for unclassified members who participate in the strike, fulfill their strike duties and are not performing essential or emergency service work.

Q2. What employer-provided benefits, such as vacation, bereavement leave, maternity leave top-up, short-term sick pay, etc. would continue during a strike or lockout?

No employer-provided benefits that depend on the collective agreement will be provided if you are on strike or locked out.

Q3. What benefits will I have if I am an Essential or Emergency Service Worker?

The collective agreement (except Appendix 9 and Appendix 18) will apply to workers performing essential and emergency services. The employer will cover all the usual benefits for essential service workers. Benefits for emergency service workers will be pro-rated on a daily basis for time worked.

Vacation

Q4. What happens if I am on vacation when a strike or lockout starts? Will I get paid?

No. You are considered to be on strike or locked out once a labour dispute starts. The employer is not obliged to give you vacation pay.

Q5. If my pre-approved vacation falls during a strike or lockout, will I get vacation pay?

No. There is no collective agreement in effect. The employer does not have to pay you vacation pay. You keep your vacation credits and can take approved vacation later.

Sick Leave

Q6. Can I get short-term sick leave with pay when I’m on strike or locked out?

No, because the collective agreement does not apply.

Q7. What happens if I am on short-term sick leave when a strike or lockout starts?

The employer will stop short-term sick leave benefits, but you can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. Be sure to keep a copy at home of any medical certificates related to your sick leave that you gave to your employer.

Q8. Am I eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits during a strike or lockout?

Maybe, if you can show that your leave was anticipated and arrangements for it had begun before a strike or lockout started. Being on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout may show that your leave was anticipated. Inform the employer in writing of the dates of any scheduled surgery and anticipated recovery periods. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

However, if your sickness wasn’t anticipated and/or began during the strike or lockout you will not qualify for EI sickness benefits.

Q9. To apply for EI sickness benefits I need my Record of Employment (ROE) from my employer. During a strike or lockout can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or there is a delay, don’t wait for your ROE. Apply as soon as possible. A temporary claim can be set up for you. Bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, to the EI office when you apply for benefits. If you informed your employer of any scheduled surgery or provided medical certificates for your sick leave then take copies with you to the EI office.

Q10. EI has a two-week waiting period at the beginning of every claim. Will I have to wait the two-weeks if I was on short-term sick leave before a strike or lockout?

If you were on short term-sick leave before a strike or lockout, EI may waive the two-week waiting period. However, if your sick leave did not begin before the strike or lockout, and if you are approved for EI (because the leave was anticipated) then it is unlikely the two week waiting period will be waived. Ask EI for clarification.

Q11. Can I participate in the strike or lockout while I am receiving EI sickness benefits or in the two-week waiting period?

You could lose your EI sickness benefits if your involvement in the labour dispute leads EI to think you are well enough to return to work. Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q12. Will the amount of my EI sickness benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14-22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14-22 weeks in the past year then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI; but if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year it is unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

Q13. Am I eligible for EI sickness benefits if I was on modified work (part-time or full-time) before the strike or lockout began?

No.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

Q14. Does my OHIP coverage stop as a result of a strike or lockout?

No. OHIP is based on living in Ontario, not on being at work. If you had OHIP coverage before a strike or lockout and you keep living in Ontario, your OHIP coverage continues.

OPSEU Pension Plan

Q15. What happens to my pension during a strike or lockout?

Neither you nor the employer pays into the pension plan during a strike or lockout. However, your membership in the plan continues and you don’t lose any entitlement you had earned up to the date the strike/lockout began.

Q16. Will I be able to buy back the pension credits I lose during a strike or lockout?

Yes. The OPSEU Pension Trust (OPTrust) will send each eligible member the cost, payment options and timelines for buying back lost pension credit. The OPTrust will need to have your current home address in order to send this information.

Q17. Will a strike or lockout affect my early retirement date to reach 90 Factor or 60/20?

Your early retirement date may be delayed if you don’t buy back the pension credits you lost during a strike or lockout. Consult with the OPTrust to see the exact impact the strike has on your earliest retirement date.

Q18. Can I make pension contributions if I am on pregnancy, parental or adoption leave? What if I’m getting WSIB benefits during a strike or lockout? Does the employer match my contributions?

Yes, you may elect to make pension contributions during pregnancy, parental or adoption leave. If you are on WSIB benefits but have not been approved for Long Term Income Protection (LTIP), you can pay into the pension plan for one year after the date of your injury. The employer must match your contributions. If you are in receipt of LTIP, pension contributions will continue to be made on your behalf by the employer.

Q19. Can I retire during a strike or lockout?

Yes, but you have to make the arrangements directly with the OPSEU Pension Trust (OPTrust). You can contact them at: 1 Adelaide Street East, Suite 1200, Toronto, Ontario M5C 3A7. Telephone (416) 681-6100 or call toll-free 1-800-637-0024 or fax to (416) 681-6175. The OPTrust can also be reached on its website at www.optrust.com.

Please note that the employer must confirm the date you retire and therefore the payment of your pension may be delayed if the employer didn’t notify OPTrust prior to the strike that you were retiring.

Q20. During a strike or lockout, can I apply to buy back pension credits for service prior to the strike, so as to be within time limits?

Yes. Contact the OPSEU Pension Trust directly to arrange a buyback.

Q21. Will a strike or lockout have an impact on my best 60 consecutive months’ salary for pension calculations?

No. These calculations are based on your salary rate, whether or not you are at work. Pay lost during a strike or lockout will not affect it.

Q22. How would a strike or lockout affect me if I am currently buying back eligible pension service?

 If your buyback is being paid by payroll deduction, it will stop during a strike or lockout. You will need to have the deductions re-calculated after a strike or lockout to make up any missed payments so that you complete the buy-back within the time limits. Once the strike or lockout concludes, contact the OPTrust to have the recalculation completed.

Q23. If I die during a strike or lockout, will my survivors get their benefits under the pension plan?

Yes.

Employment Insurance (EI)

Q24. Can I get regular Employment Insurance (EI) if I’m not working because of a strike or lockout?

No. Generally, if you’re unable to work because of a strike or lockout you cannot get regular EI benefits. However, you may be eligible for EI maternity, parental (includes adoption), sickness or authorized training benefits.

Q25. As a seasonal worker I was receiving regular EI benefits prior to the strike. If I participate in a strike or lockout can I still receive my regular EI benefits?

Yes, however, remember that regular EI is designed for people who have no jobs and are actively looking for work. If you spend too much time on strike duty, EI may assume that you are not available for work. Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q26. As a seasonal worker, what happens if I am scheduled to return to work during a strike?

Your regular EI benefits end at the scheduled return date. You would then be performing strike duties for strike pay.

Q27. As a seasonal worker who gets laid off regularly for one week during the March break, am I eligible for EI benefits if my regularly-scheduled layoff occurred prior to the strike? What happens when I perform strike duties and get strike pay during my lay off?

Yes, you are eligible. You would be required to report your strike pay on your weekly reporting cards. However, strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes, so it will not be deducted from your EI benefits. Since you will be on a regular short-term layoff (i.e., less than one month) you are not expected to be looking for work and therefore should not experience any difficulties when reporting strike pay to EI.

Q28. As a seasonal worker, am I eligible for EI benefits if my regularly-scheduled layoff occurs after the strike began?

No.

Pregnancy/Parental/Adoption Leave

Q29. What happens if I’m on maternity, parental or adoption leave and a strike or lockout starts? Will my EI benefits continue?

Yes, your EI benefits will continue for the duration of your leave.

Q30. Will I receive EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits if my leave starts during a strike or lockout?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

Q31. If I participate in the strike or lockout prior to the start of my prearranged maternity, parental or adoption leave, will I still receive my EI benefits?

Yes, if you can show you were arranging the leave before the strike or lockout. Write to the employer, stating your intent. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself at home.

Q32. Can I participate in a strike or lockout while I am on maternity, parental or adoption leave and still receive my EI benefits?

Yes. However, keep in mind that EI pays these benefits on the assumption that you need the time off to care for your child. Strike pay is not considered to be earnings for EI purposes so it will not be deducted from your EI benefit.

Q33. Will the amount of my EI benefits be affected by a strike or lockout?

Possibly. The amount you receive is based on your best 14-22 weeks of earnings in the prior 52 weeks. The number of weeks used (14-22) is based on the rate of unemployment in your region. This is determined by EI. If you only worked 14-22 weeks in the past year then the strike could affect the amount you receive from EI; but if you worked for more than 22 weeks in the last year it is unlikely to have any effect on the amount you receive.

Q34. To apply for EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits I need my Record of Employment (ROE) from the employer. If my leave starts during a strike or lockout can I get my ROE?

Your employer should give you your ROE. If you can’t get it, or there is a delay, bring proof that you were working, such as pay stubs, to the EI office when you apply for benefits. Apply as soon as you can. Don’t wait for your ROE. A temporary claim can be set up for you.

Q35. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my wages to 93 per cent of my pay for the first two weeks of my maternity, parental or adoption leave. Will I get this during a strike or lockout?

No. The employer does not have to pay this for any part of the two-week period that falls during a strike or lockout.

Q36. Under the collective agreement, the employer tops up my EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits to 93 per cent of my pay. If I am on leave and getting EI benefits before a strike or lockout, will I get the top-up from the employer?

During a strike or lockout you will not receive the top up.

Q37. If my EI maternity, parental or adoption leave benefits start during a strike or lockout, will I get the top-up from the employer?

No, you will not get the top-up during a strike or lockout.

Q38. Would the top-up start up again after a strike or lockout?

Yes, as long as you are still getting EI maternity or parental (including adoption) benefits and the top-up provision still exists in the new collective agreement.

Q39. Do I have benefit coverage if I am on maternity, parental or adoption leave during a strike or lockout?

Yes, you are entitled to benefit coverage while on leave, as long as you pay your share of pension contributions and benefit premiums. If your portion is paid, then the employer must make its contributions and continue your benefit coverage.

Q40. If my share is paid, what benefits do I get?

You will have coverage for: pension; basic life insurance; supplementary and/or dependent life insurance (if you have them); supplementary health and hospital (including drugs); and dental.

Q41. What happens if my maternity, parental or adoption leave ends and I’m ready to return to work while a strike or lockout is still on?

You are considered on strike or locked out and you should report for strike duties.

Q42. The collective agreement says I must serve 13 weeks to get leave without pay for maternity, parental or adoption leave. Will a strike or lockout interrupt my eligibility for these leaves?

A strike or lockout does not interrupt the qualifying period for these leaves. To be eligible, your hire date must be at least 13 weeks before the expected date of birth, or start of the parental or adoption leave.

Long Term Income Protection (LTIP)

Q43. If I am on LTIP before a strike or lockout, do my LTIP benefits continue?

Yes, because LTIP is not paid directly by the employer.

Q44. If I am on LTIP when a strike or lockout starts, will I receive other benefits?

In past bargaining, the employer agreed that life insurance, health and dental benefits would continue for members on LTIP during a strike. We expect that the employer will honour the same position in this round of bargaining. The employer will have to continue pension contributions.

Q45. If I become ill or injured while on strike or locked out, will I be eligible for LTIP benefits?

Yes, you will have LTIP coverage for an injury or illness that occurs during a strike or lockout.

Q46. Would a strike or lockout interrupt my six-month qualifying period for LTIP?

No. You are eligible for LTIP benefits if your application is approved. You can qualify for LTIP during a strike or lockout. A strike or lockout does not delay your eligibility.

Q47. If approved, will my LTIP benefits begin immediately or will they be delayed until after a strike or lockout ends?

Your LTIP benefits will begin immediately.

Q48. While I am returning to work on a gradual basis, I have been receiving both rehabilitative employment earnings from the employer and LTIP benefits. Will I continue to receive both during the strike?

You will receive both only if you work as an essential or emergency service worker. If you are not working as an essential or emergency service worker, then the employer does not pay you. Your LTIP benefits continue to be paid by the insurer without the usual reduction of 50 per cent of your rehabilitative employment earnings.

Transition Exit Initiative (TEI)

Q49. What happens if someone is on TEI and there is a labour disruption?

If someone starts the period of salary continuance under TEI before the beginning of a labour disruption they would continue to be paid. If they were scheduled to start salary continuance after the beginning of a labour disruption they would not be paid. The member will receive their salary continuance after the labour disruption.

If someone has been approved TEI prior to the expiry of the collective agreement and they are approved to exit in 2015 the employer will honour the request.

Q50. Is there a dues deduction on TEI payments?

Yes.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Benefits

Q51. If I am injured while on strike duty, can I make a WSIB claim?

No, you can’t.

Q52. If I am getting WSIB benefits, will they continue during a strike or lockout?

In many cases, yes, provided you continue to qualify medically and co-operate with WSIB-approved programs.

However, if WSIB discontinues or threatens to discontinue your benefits, contact OPSEU Pensions and Benefits Department and ask to speak to the WSIB Benefits Counsellor for your region.

Q53. If I have an approved WSIB claim and I am in receipt of WSIB benefits, who pays me during a strike or lockout?

WSIB will pay you directly.

Q54. The collective agreement continues my salary for 30 days while I await a decision from the WSIB; or for 3 months or 65 days where an award has been made under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. Can I get this during a strike or lockout?

No. You will have to ask the WSIB for direct payment if your claim is approved. If you are waiting for approval, apply for sickness benefits under EI.

Q55. Does the WSIB pay me the equivalent of my salary?

No. If the WSIB pays you directly, you will get WSIB benefits which are 85 per cent of your net average earnings for any injury or illness that occurred after January 1, 1998 or 90 per cent for any injury or illness prior to that.

Q56. Can I use accumulated credits to supplement my WSIB benefits during a strike or lockout?

No. With no collective agreement in place, you can’t use accumulated credits.

Q57. Would my strike pay affect the WSIB benefits that I get during a strike or lockout?

No. Strike pay is not considered earnings by WSIB and therefore is not offset from WSIB benefits. However, you are in receipt of WSIB benefits because you are deemed to be too ill or injured to be working; if WSIB believes you have recovered enough to be working (i.e. because you have reported for strike duty) they may not continue your WSIB benefits.

Q58. Will I have benefit coverage if I am on WSIB during a strike or lockout?

You can keep employment benefits for one year from the date of your injury or until you return to work, whichever is sooner.

Your benefit coverage remains the same as when you were at work.

Q59. What happens if I am getting WSIB benefits and am ready to return to some type of work during a strike or lockout?

The employer will probably tell the WSIB that there is no appropriate placement for you due to the labour dispute. If this happens, inform the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of your situation and your intention to continue following WSIB rules. You should continue to receive WSIB benefits as long as you co-operate with their requirements.

If WSIB discontinues your benefits, contact OPSEU Pensions and Benefits Department and ask to speak to the WSIB Benefits Counsellor.

Essential and Emergency Service Workers

Q60. What benefits are covered for essential and emergency service workers?

The collective agreement (except Appendix 9 and Appendix 18) applies to all workers performing essential and emergency service work. The employer will provide all benefits to essential service workers. The employer will cover emergency service workers on a pro-rated basis for time worked.

Q61. What happens to my benefits if I rotate through essential or emergency assignments?

The employer has said you will be covered for the time you are at work if you rotate through essential and emergency service assignments.

Q62. If I am working as an essential service worker and become ill and cannot work, will I be entitled to short term sick leave?

Yes. The collective agreement applies to essential service workers.

Q63. If I am working in essential or emergency services, and have a work-related accident, am I entitled to WSIB benefits and services?

Yes. Notify your employer as soon as possible after the injury occurs.

Q64. If I am an essential service worker and my approved vacation is scheduled during a strike or lockout, do I take my vacation?

The employer can deny vacation based on operational requirements. During a strike or lockout, your previously approved vacation may be cancelled.

Q65. What if I have pre-scheduled and prepaid a vacation?

In past bargaining rounds, the essential services agreement let you have a temporary absence, if you could prove your vacation was pre-scheduled and prepaid. Your replacement was designated from the emergency list, and you had to report back to your position as soon as you returned from vacation. We expect that the employer will honour the same position in this round of bargaining.

Q66. If I work as an essential or emergency service worker during a strike or lockout, what happens to my pension contributions?

For the days that you work, it is mandatory that the employer deducts your pension contribution and makes their share of the pension contribution. After the strike or lockout, if the strike or lockout period is less than a month, you will be required to pay any missed employee contributions. If the strike or lockout goes beyond the first month, you can buy back the pension credits for periods that you did not work.

 

Related: OPS Bargaining 2014 Index Page

 

Publication Date: 

Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 1:45pm