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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007

BCTF Advantage: I can hardly wait

by Laurence Greeff

Three years ago, the BCTF initiated direction to establish an affinity program for members. The Finance Committee of the BCTF was given the responsibility to examine the possibility of the affinity program for our members and to report to the BCTF Executive. The Finance Committee took on the task knowing the positive value of an affinity plan to members.

What value you may ask?

An affinity program is designed to use the economic and collective strength of the group to benefit the individual. In the case of our membership, the benefit of belonging to the BCTF should be rewarded with individual benefits that give advantage to our members.

Historically, this notion has always been part of the labour movement. Collective union power has been effective in setting up credit unions, retail stores, insurance programs, and a host of other services that have helped the individual member. Ontario teachers have for the last five years had an affinity program that has been well received by their members and has grown well for them. Teachers in England and the United States established similar programs and have used the power of the collective to great advantage for their members.

The National Union of Teachers in England have an affinity program that provides lower prices for a range of retail products, lower travel costs, and have provided mortgage and financial service products at a competitive advantage for their members. American teachers who belong to the American Federation of Teachers have a program called AFT Plus, which enables their members to use the collective strength of the union to help them get reduced costs for a varied range of products and services. (Check out these web sites: Edvantage for Ontario teachers, AFT Plus for American teachers, and Countdown for the National Union of Teachers in England).

The Finance Committee approached the task with its usual enthusiastic deliberateness because whenever you develop an affinity program for members, it must have specific criteria that reflects our values; it should be cost neutral, follow social and ethical guidelines, be customized so that it reflects our members needs, and have a revenue stream that will benefit us.

We made our recommendation to the BCTF Executive Committee and in doing so, we reiterated the fact that an affinity program must be voluntary and give an advantage to our members. The Executive Committee approved that we set up a customized affinity program with BCAA and OTG Financial.

In January 2007, we began working with the Group Affinity Division of BCAA to design a customized program that offers members on a voluntary basis: competitive travel opportunities, a range of insurance programs, and retail services. BCAA is a registered society serving over 700,000 British Columbians with a range of services from travel to insurance needs. They have impeccable credentials as a membership-driven organization that provides good services to its members and they have the capacity to assist us in developing the program on a cost-neutral basis.

A change in the direction at OTG Financial has caused them to forego participation in the financial services aspect of the program. Their decision has opened the door for us to investigate other possibilities and we hope to bring forward a recommendation on which companies can best work with us to provide the range of financial services we need as members.

The executive recommendations set up an affinity program subcommittee to develop the move to implementing the affinity program. Carole Gillis (Kamloops teacher), Drusilla Wilson (Maple Ridge teacher), Rob McLaren (BCTF treasurer), Patti McLaughlin (Salary Indemnity Plan administrator) and myself constituted the subcommittee and we had an initial meeting to develop the critical path to implementation. At various stages of the implementation process, we will be reporting to the BCTF Executive Committee, the Representative Assembly, and the AGM to update members on the progress of the implementation plan.

Our launch is set for October 2007, and we know members can hardly wait. Focus groups reacted positively to the introduction of an affinity plan and members have been very excited about getting involved in the program. They say, "Anything that will help us reduce costs will be a benefit."

On the BCTF web site, you will see the logo BCTF Advantage. As part of our drive to the much anticipated launch and to help members connect with the BCTF Advantage, we are holding a draw for two tickets to a very exciting destination! All you have to do is give us your input for designing the travel offers in the BCTF Advantage program by filling out the survey form available on-line and at the AGM, to be eligible for this great giveaway prize.

Laurence Greeff, a Langley teacher, is chairperson of the BCTF Finance Committee and a member of the affinity subcommittee to implement the BCTF Advantage program.

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