Thursday, January 27, 2011

Retired folks have rights too

Double-dipping. It’s the rallying call for those who say the old grey mare should be put out to pasture and the new colt brought in. The problem is there aren’t always enough colts to go around or take their place at the far end of the pasture. There’s also the issue of age discrimination. Just because the calendar shows you’ve reached a certain age, why should you have to step aside? There no longer is a mandated age of retirement in Newfoundland.

The case in point is yesterday’s report from the provincial auditor general in which he discusses double-dipping. In it, he says 443 teachers earned $5.2 million in salary in 2009 while receiving pension benefits of $15.6 million.

Noseworthy’s main concern is that procedures set out in the Teachers’ Pension Act were not followed. One of those procedures is that such re-hires need to be approved by the Minister of Finance and if you’re hired for more than 65-days, then your pension benefits are to be suspended. Not fair in my humble opinion – but that’s the way the law reads.

Part of the problem is that many of the jobs the retired teachers are filling are either in very rural areas of the province or very short-term, neither of which seem to appeal to some of our new education graduates. It’s the age-old problem. Most of the new grads want to stay in town where the party life is better and there is lots of technology to support their classroom work. They also want full-time jobs rather than cobbling together an income from substitute work. In many cases, the principals and school superintendents have no option other than to turn to retired teachers to fill in the blanks.

My other point is about the pension. If you work 35-years and earn a pension, then you’re entitled to it. In my opinion, nothing should take away your right to a pension. If you’re a municipal worker in Mount Pearl and retire with a pension and take on another job with a fast food restaurant, you’re still entitled to your pension. Why should that change because you offer your needed skills to the classroom? Why should you be penalized for lending your experience in a situation where it’s needed?

One of the main arguments against double-dipping is that it prevents young people from getting jobs. That only holds water as long as there are young people available who have the necessary skills, abilities and willingness to take the job. For example, I’ve heard that some new teachers are insisting they be paid travel allowances to do substitute work. That sense of entitlement is unacceptable. The quicker they learn that, the better.

Perhaps the Teachers Association needs to be become a little more proactive in protecting the rights and entitlements of its retired members.

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