Council signs long-term health and dental contract

Student union makes changes to policy manual in order to sign 5 to 7 year health and dental contract

Photo: Gloria Joe

At the June 16 council meeting UMSU approved changes to their policy manual allowing the student union to enter into long-term health and dental contracts. Council subsequently approved a second motion to sign a multi-year health and dental contract with its broker for the 2013-2014 school year, StudentCare .

The first motion changed policy #2508 of UMSU’s Policy Manual, which addresses contracts and agreements, under the section “Multi-year Contracts.” The change removes a line prohibiting UMSU from signing an agreement for the provision or brokerage of a health, dental, or other insurance plan that would commit UMSU or its membership to any one provider for more than one year.

Other changes to come with this motion included an expansion of responsibility for the executive committee, extending their mandate to include reviewing and approving all multi-year contracts instead of just those related to UMSU businesses.

A similar expansion of responsibility was given to the UMSU Council, extending their mandate to include reviewing and approving all multi-year contracts instead of just those outside of UMSU businesses.

There was a shift in mandate for the finance committee, mandating review and approval by the finance committee of all multi-year contracts relating to UMSU businesses while removing responsibilities to review and approve non-UMSU businesses-related multi-year contracts.

The second motion submitted by the executive committee called for the executive to “finalize negotiation of and execute a multi-year agreement with UMSU’s current health and dental insurance plan broker.” Both motions were adopted.

Jeremiah Kopp, UMSU vice-president internal and chair of the policy and bylaws,  finance, and health and dental plan committees, told the Manitoban that a contract for five years, with a two-year additional option, has since been signed. Kopp said the changes will benefit UMSU members.

The new contract will provide long-term stability, reduce costs associated with undergoing an annual tendering process, and lock in a set health and dental fee rate for the duration of the contract, said Kopp.

Council minutes also indicate that the deal with StudentCare includes provisions for a onetime $100,000 donation to UMSU in the 2014-2015 school year as well as $10,000 in annual sponsorships.

“Establishing a long-term partner creates huge sponsorship potential,” Kopp said. “This is money that will go right back to the students’ pockets and into new and existing services for students.”

Only 27 of 44  sitting council members were in attendance for the June council meeting. UMSU’s meetings move to a monthly format for the summer months when attendance tends to be significantly lower than normal. Excluding the meeting held during last year’s UMSU election, the meetings in May and June represented the two least attended meetings since Nov. 18, 2013.

Despite the low attendance, Kopp expressed confidence in the level of consultation done with council.

“Council was extremely well-versed in the negotiations and process,” said Kopp. “They were updated every step of the way at council meetings and the UMSU retreat.

“It was very important to us that our actions reflected the will of UMSU Council. Everyone received proper notification of motions as per UMSU bylaws and policies,” he said.

Faculty of Music Students’ Association vice-stick Kieran Labossière was in attendance for council’s June meeting and described the experience differently.

“We’d come back from the UMSU retreat the day prior [ . . . ] [the multi-year contract] was only briefly touched upon,” said Labossière.

When asked if there were any concerns from council about signing a long-term health and dental contract, Kopp said there were none.

A note from the meeting’s minutes indicates that the recording device for the meeting failed to operate correctly and as a result questions and comments about the change in policy from the meeting weren’t transcribed.

“There were quite a few questions,” Labossière noted. “Much of them along the line of ‘a multi-year contract, is that really a good idea? What if [ . . . ] we’ve signed into this longer contract with poor service for us?’”

University 1 council rep Emily Zarychta said she was one of the council members to raise concerns at the June meeting.

“The benefit is that the student union can theoretically receive discounts and cheaper prices with multi-year contracts, and the costs associated with negotiations will be cheaper because the negotiations will happen less frequently than if the negotiations occurred yearly,” said Zarychta.

“The downside is that the union will be trapped in contracts for terms longer than the UMSU positions, which are one year in length [ . . . ] It is possible that new students at the University of Manitoba may feel unrepresented over multi-year contracts being imposed on them,” said Zarychta.

“I think that in a system where the governing body is elected yearly, the ability to sign multi-year contracts is an overreach and may be considered undemocratic by students who feel unrepresented – if, say, another slate is elected the following year over an issue that they cannot contractually change, due to a previously signed multi-year contract.”

Arts Student Body Council representative Jack Zinger also raised questions at the June council meeting, but feels confident about the multi-year plan.

“I just wanted a little more information about it, but after hearing the actual benefits I definitely think it’s a great idea,” said Zinger.

“I know lots of other schools across Canada are switching to multi-year plans as well; that way you can negotiate better rates with the broker who in turn can get multi-year deals with the actual insurers like Blue Cross.

“I think there could have been a bit more notice but at the same time I believe it was a work in progress, so until they got a deal they weren’t going to present it to students,” said Zinger.

Old Policy

Any multi-year contract or agreement relating to the operation of the UMSU businesses must be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee prior to being signed.

Any other multi-year contract or agreement must be reviewed and approved by the Finance Committee and UMSU Council.

UMSU is prohibited from signing an agreement for the provision or brokerage of a health, dental, or other insurance plan that would commit UMSU or its membership to any one provider for more than one year. (From UMSU policy manual)

New Policy

A multi-year contract or agreement relating to the operation of the UMSU businesses must be reviewed and approved by Finance Committee.

Multi-year contracts or agreements must be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee followed by the approval of UMSU Council.’

“UMSU is prohibited from entering into an agreement for the brokerage of a health, dental, or other insurance plan that would commit UMSU to a multi-year contract with an insurer.” (UMSU council minutes, June 16)

It appears as if the final line of the new policy includes information contradicting the intent of the change to the multi-year section of the policy. This appears to be a clerical error.