Casuals, alert!

You may be eligible for pension benefits Are you an HEU member who has been working as a casual? If you are, you may be eligible and required to be covered under the Municipal Pension Plan. This means that your employer, under certain circumstances, should be making contributions to your retirement fund. And this can add up — sometimes to thousands of dollars. Any casual HEU workers who meet the criteria outlined below and are not enrolled in the Municipal Pension Plan should notify their employer immediately. If you are a casual or part-timer who has exceeded a certain income for two consecutive years, beginning in 1997, you are eligible, indeed required, to be enrolled in this pension plan. Specifically, a person who has earned 35 per cent or more of the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) for two years in a row must belong. The YMPE for 1997 was $35,800, and for 1998 it was $36,900. Therefore, if you earned $12,560.80 or more in 1997 and $12,915.00 or more in 1998, then you must be enrolled in the pension plan. (The YMPE is noted on your T-4 form when you file your income tax each year.) In addition to this new provision granting eligibility for pension benefits for HEU's casuals and part-timers, there is another benefit that has been available to this group of workers since 1988. Any casual who has worked for 12 continuous months in an equivalent to a full time position is also able to join the Municipal Pension Plan. Once enrolled, you stay enrolled, even if you return to part-time and/or temporary work status. If you meet the above criteria for membership in the pension plan and you are in fact not enrolled, you should contact your employer immediately who must retroactively pay your contributions for the relevant years. There are two alternatives open to you to catch up on your own contributions: pay all the owing contributions now, or pay this amount upon retirement. The union's position is that if the employer did not enroll qualifying employees in the pension plan, then the employer was remiss. In this circumstance the union member should file a grievance, the resolution being that the employer pay any interest that should have accrued. "HEU members have fought for and won many new protections and benefits for casual workers over the years," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "We must also make sure that employers meet their legal obligations to eligible casual employees." Please contact your employer and your shop steward if you think you meet the above criteria for enrollment in the pension plan.