Thinking about the future. . .

Today I did a bunch of work related to my position as president of my Local.  The support staff of Sturgeon School Division, where I work, belong to CUPE — Canadian Union of Public Employees.

We all work in a fairly high-stress environment dealing with kids all day, some of whom do not come from the best of circumstances, and, as a result are burdened with all kinds of ‘special’ little problems.

But, that’s not what this is about.  We work the school calendar — which, if you are a school-based employee means you work 200 days a year — the basic instructional calendar, and most of us work less than eight hours a day.  It’s not a traditional full-time job, by any means.  For those who depend on the job as their sole source of income it can be a tough making ends meet.  Even as a second income, it’s not on par with other careers as far as earning power goes.

Many of us working in the education system as classroom or therapy assistants chose the job because we love kids, we believe in the power of education, we want to help make a difference, we wanted to be on the same schedule as our school-aged children and having the summers off to be with our families was worth the sacrifice in income.

One of the things that helps make up for that lack of earnings potential is the benefit of being able to contribute to LAPP – the Local Authorities Pension Plan.  LAPP, as it is commonly known, is a defined benefit pension plan, that sees employees and employers contributing more or less the same amount into a pension fund. The fund provides for a steady, half-way decent monthly benefit once an employee retires, if they’ve worked long enough — say 35 years — and contributed that entire time.

Now, our provincial government, the Conservatives led by Allison Redford, wants to change the rules regarding our pension.  They want to do away with things like early retirement — which, if you opt for you also opt for a reduced monthly benefit, and they want to get rid of yearly cost of living increases — because apparently once you retire you can live on the same fixed amount of money for the rest of your life — even though utilities, food and gas will continue to rise, and you’ll have to pay exorbitant health care costs because you no longer have the benefit of belonging to a group plan.

The government is saying that the pension fund in its current form is not sustainable.  They say it’s costing tax-payers, employers and government too much, and that employees must be prepared to shoulder a larger portion of the cost.  They want to take away our future security. They want to take away our right to live with dignity as we grow older and more dependent on the government services we helped pay for with the wages we earned while in the workforce.

The message we kept being given is that it is our responsibility to plan for and save for retirement.

Our answer should be:  We did!  We paid into a pension plan with the goal of having  a secure monthly income after we retired.  And for all those people out there who would say that we don’t pay nearly enough into the plan and that it is gold-plated?  Well, I can tell you that I pay approximately 10% of my gross monthly wage into the plan every month, and when I retire, after working for approximately 15 years in this job, I will be lucky to see a pension of about $200 a month.

Thank God my husband worked at his job for more than 35 years.  He’s a member of LAPP as well.  His pension will be less than half of what he presently earns.

And the government and pension critics have the nerve to call that gold-plated.  Easy for them to say when the pensions they earn are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they only have to work a handful of years to qualify for them.

Unions across the province and the country have banded together to push back against the changes the government wants to make to public sector pensions.  On March 2nd a rally has been planned to show the Redford government that their proposed changes are not acceptable, and that working people in this province deserve better than what they’re getting .  The rally is going to take place at Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton at 2 p.m.

Myself, and presidents from neighbouring locals are working together to try to get as many of our members as we can out to this rally.  But we need others to stand up and add their voices to this fight.  It doesn’t matter if you belong to our union, or any union — if you believe that our government should keep its grubby mitts off pensions and that they should protect the rights of working people rather than trample all over them, then please come out and join us.

If we don’t stand up to this attack on our pensions, if we lose this fight, then we have lost not only our own future security we have lost our children’s futures,  too.

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May 22nd

Day 143 — A busy, busy day.  And the wind!  My God, it’s been incredible for the past two days.  The mornings start out nice and calm, sunny.  I get lulled into thinking it will be like that all day.  Not.  around noon the winds whip up and then they just get fiercer as the afternoon unwinds.  Only good thing about the wind is that it’s keeping the mosquitos at bay!

Spent yesterday evening working on Union business.  Can’t wait for the summer to be here and my time to be entirely my own.

Was a heartbreaker of a game between Ottawa and Pittsburgh.  I really want Ottawa to win — just so we can say we’ve got a Canadian team in the running — and they started out so good, but man, oh, man did they blow it in the third.  Here’s hoping they can pull a rabbit out of the hat for the next game.

Update #2 — April 2nd – 5th

Day 93 – 96  —  It was back to work on Tuesday.  I was still exhausted.  Trying to catch up on a missed 35 hours of sleep takes a while, I discovered.  On Monday evening my son came by the house to see if I could go watch my two oldest grandkids because they had to take the youngest to the hospital.  No thought, only go.  He had been throwing up all day and finally the doctor said to bring him in.  I didn’t feel tired until about 11 o’clock, then it hit me like a brick.  I pulled a blanket over myself and went to sleep with the phone by my hand.

They called around 11:30 to say they were still waiting, but that Ethan was, thankfully, sleeping.  I called my husband to tell him the news and he offered to come relieve me so that I could go home and get some sleep before going to work in the morning.  When the alarm went off at 6 I thought briefly of just laying there and pretending I hadn’t heard it.  But, wondering what was happening with the kids, I got up and grabbed the phone.  They still hadn’t left the hospital, but Ethan was doing much better.  Sigh.  Huge sigh.

I called them around 8, just before I headed out the door and they said they had just got home.  So, that was a relief.

The rest of the week went relatively okay, except for the snowstorm that developed on Wednesday.  Another snow storm!  Thankfully, it wasn’t near as bad as the last one.  But with the Spring-like temperatures (insert a big snort here) the snow was wet and heavy and made the roads a little dicey.

I spent the week getting caught up to speed with work and trying — not very successfully — to get my house in order.  It’s funny, when you go away on vacation, even though you clean everything before you go, the house is a disaster the minute you walk through the door.

I had a busy week with trying to get ready for a grievance hearing with our employer and then getting some other Union business tied up.

All in all, I probably could have used another week off.

Tuesday . . . and a shift in perspective is in order

I woke up this morning and said:  Today is the start of my new life.  All good things are coming to me today.  My problems will be resolved in my favour.  I feel love and joy in abundance all around me.

For those of you familiar with The Secret you will recognize my paraphrased words.  I read the book a few years ago; not generally the type of thing I would have ever picked up, but something prompted me to.  Since then, I’ve tried to live my life with what I learned from that small book always in my thoughts.  It’s more about feeling positive about your life, about what you have in your life, than it is about any form of religion.  Although, I do feel it fits in well with nearly any form of religion you could name — well, except maybe extreme, on the fringes type of things — and those aren’t religions, anyway — they’re cults.

Okay, so, I’ve digressed. . .

. . . not unusual.

I have been having a really tough time of it lately.  Lots of stress related to work.  Not the actual job, but my role as President of our Union.  As with any employer, employee relationship there are always major differences of opinion when it comes to what each side expects.  Suffice it to say that things are not going smoothly and I have been feeling incredibly overwhelmed of late.

Yesterday was rough.  But last night I finally said:  Enough!  Pull up your big-girl panties, Kathy and get on with it!  So, I did what I was able to do and then I walked away for the night.  Sat and had a cup of tea, nursed my cold and watched a little of So You Think You Can Dance, Canada and a half hour of MasterChef.

I slept great last night (with the help of Benylin night-time cold formula) and when I woke up this morning  the first thing that popped into my head were the words I wrote above.  These were followed by a sense of calm, and I knew that everything would be okay.  I’ll get through this mess, will put it all behind me and start focusing again on the really important things in my life:  family, friends, writing.

So, that’s it.  Sometimes, I wonder why it takes me so long to get around to remembering how to stop and breathe and put things in perspective.  Especially when it’s such a simple thing to do.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

a beach in the Dominican -- warm breezes and trouble-free

Thursday, Sept. 9th, 2010

Rain, rain go away. . .

Well, it’s been one helluva long time since I managed to find some time for blogging.  Work and Union business is eating up my life!  Sigh.  Huge sigh.

Things are settling down on the work end of things — we’ve got a great class this year, all wonderful kids.  We’re gettin’ into a groove, gettin’ to know one another and it’s all good.

It’s the Union stuff that is bogging me down right now.  It’s always like this at the beginning.  Give it another month or so and things will begin to simmer down.

Hmm. . . simmer down?  Is that possible?  I think that’s one of THOSE sayings.  But I’ll stick with it, anyway.

The weather here in Alberta has been absolutely atrocious!  I don’t think we’ve had more than a day’s worth of sunlight in the past week and a half.  Rain, clouds, wind, more rain, more clouds, more wind.  It’s been wonderful. (Can you hear the dripping sarcasm?  Sorry for the pun.)

Our motorcycle trip was a bit of a bust this weekend.  The weather.  And, one of our friends got sick and couldn’t continue on.  We made it to High River.  That was on Saturday.  There was some sun that day.  By the time we’d finished supper in High River it had begun to rain, and by Sunday morning it was literally chucking down.

After getting the weather report for the mountains — 2 degrees and raining in Kananaskis, snow flurries in Banff — we decided to just head home.  We rode in the rain from High River to Crossfield.  It stopped raining while we drove through Calgary.  Whoopee!  However, it was quite windy, so that made it fun.  Once out of Crossfield, the rain let up, but there was very little sun until closer to Leduc.  And the temperature never got much higher than 13 degrees.  On a bike, that’s pretty cold.  We were all pretty chilly and tired by the time we got home.

Tim and I unloaded the bike, got in our pj’s, I threw a frozen lasagna in the oven and we sat on our butts and watched TV all night.  Under blankets.  It was wonderful.

So, I never got any stunning pictures of the mountains to share with anyone.  But we are going back up to Miete around the end of the month.  It’s our 31st anniversary!  Yay us!  Hopefully, there will be some sense restored to our weather by then and we’ll have beautiful, warm fall days to go hiking and sitting in the hot springs in.  Then I will bring back pictures.  I promise.

My granddaughter started Kindergarten this year.  I talked to her on the phone last night and asked her what she thinks of school.  “It’s good, grandma!”

“Are you learning anything?”  I asked.

“Hmm, no.”

“You’re not!  You’re not learning to spell, or anything?”

“Well, yeah, that.”

“What have you learned how to spell?”

“Words.  Graaandmaaa.”

“I see.  What else are you learning?  Are you learning to read?”

“Nope.”

“How about numbers?  Are they teaching you numbers?”

“I already know numbers — umm, Grandma, when can we have a sleepover at your house?”

Shades of her father; my heart just bursts.

Good night all — hopefully it won’t be so long between posts next time.