The e-mail flew thick and fast — some from grateful new teachers and their families, but most from annoyed retired teachers.Like MacDonald, I have some trouble digesting these reactions. Nobody forced these teachers, many of whom have clocked out of their contracts the moment they became eligible, to hang up their chalk sticks and enter retirement. While some may have been forced to retire at 65, legislation has changed that and those older retirees could now return. Many of the retired teachers I know personally are well below that threshold.
“Stop thinking that every retired teacher is sitting on a pile of money,” wrote one person, accusing me of branding a working retired teacher as “a bad person” — as if presenting the debate automatically tarred all working retirees.
“Have you read any of the research that suggests retiring ‘cold turkey’ has been linked to shortening lifespan?” wrote another.
Retirees pointed out their pension benefits aren’t as great as people might think — they don’t come with a health plan (though some boards allow retirees to pay into one) — and modest pensions might be decimated by paying for private health benefits, financial fall-out from a late-in-life divorce, supporting kids in university, or chronic health problems that prevented them from earning a full pension before retirement.
Most of us can relate — because that’s life, and we all cope with it, some without a company pension, whether we paid into it or not. (Teachers currently put 11% of their earnings into theirs, the government matches it.)
Just because you turn 65 does not mean you can no longer do the job — some of us may be better than ever. But eventually we have to give the younger generation a crack. If we don’t, they’re going to have less experience, may totally give up the profession because they can’t get a job, and won’t be fully contributing into the tax base that will increasingly support all of our retirees.
Complaints about their pension? It may not be diamond-encrusted, but it's certainly a gold-plated, public service pension. Given the salaries many of these teachers are retiring at ($75,000+ would be my conservative estimate), even a percentage of that is much, much healthier than what awaits many of us.
Many teachers circled their retirement date on calendar and budgeted on being able to get occasional-teacher contracts to their annual max (or beyond) to supplement that income so they could live the life they wanted to. The willingness to accept that is, hopefully, changing.
Whenever the next reconsideration of this arrangement is up, I would hope these generous provisions to double-dip are axed. What other profession / craft allows you to return to work, earn a full salary and not be penalized on your pension earnings?
If this is axed, given the over-abundant pool of certified talent available in this province, teachers eligible for retirement should ponder their options carefully. If they can't afford retirement, they may just have to face the same choice others do and stay at work. To claim poverty as the reason for taking advantage of this rich allowance is an insult to those who will never get that option.
You might say that would keep them around longer and still prevent entry into the profession for younger candidates. But at least then they could access a greater share of occasional-teacher placements, as opposed to currently, as they're blocked from permanent contracts because of declining enrolment and then further by retired teachers on occasional teacher lists.