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Financial Sustainability

Request for Proposals launched for Employee Benefit Plan

Queen’s has been working closely with the university’s benefits consultant and an external firm that specializes in procurement law to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an employee benefits provider. The RFP is now open to bidders for a six-week period.

In late 2016, the university asked all benefit-eligible employees for feedback on their employee benefits as part of the plan review process, including on potential areas for improvement. Throughout 2018, the university worked with the Multi-Employee Group Employee Benefits Committee (MEGEBC) to explore possible changes to the design of the current benefit plan. The MEGEBC was comprised of participants from university employee groups.

The university, with the support of the MEGEBC, identified some meaningful changes to the current benefit plan design that are responsive to a number of suggested areas for feedback. Some highlights include introducing a pay-direct drug card, introducing coverage for services of a registered psychologist, and an increase to vision coverage.

“The improvements to the Employee Benefit Plan will support the physical and mental health of employees and their families moving forward,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration).

The RFP was publicly posted on March 14 and will be open to bidders for a six-week period. Bid evaluation will follow including interviews with the top proponents. It is expected that the evaluation period will take a further six weeks. Once the successful proponent has been identified, an implementation timeline will be developed, including when and how the plan design changes will be added to existing coverage.

Find out more about the employee benefits review on the HR website. Employees can also send questions about the project to benefits.project@queensu.ca

Sharing a success story

[Nicole Fowler and Nicole Mundell]
A presentation created by Nicole Fowler and Nicki Mundell, about Queen's University's experience implementing a new electronic Procure to Pay system, was so popular that spend management company Jaggaer is now sharing it with clients around the world. (University Communications)

Since being introduced in May 2017, acQuire, Queen's electronic Procure to Pay system, has resulted in numerous improvements across the university including replacing the former manual, paper-based procurement and payment processes, increasing efficiencies and transparency, and reducing the carbon footprint.

Numerous private corporations and universities across North America have also introduced the software, created by spend management company Jaggaer, but Queen’s has quickly become a leading implementer of the software’s eProcurement, Accounts Payable and Supplier Management modules, particularly within the post-secondary education sector.

As a result, the Queen’s acQuire team was recently invited to make a presentation at a conference held at the Jaggaer company’s headquarters in North Carolina. The presentation, detailing the implementation process and successes, went so well that the Queen’s team was invited to create a webcast with the company’s media firm to help other program users around the world.

For Nicole Fowler and Nicki Mundell, who head up the acQuire team at Queen’s, the experience and positive response has been a pleasant surprise.

“It went really well. There were a lot of comments and feedback and we actually had a lot of people (current and prospective customers) wanting to exchange contacts with us,” says Fowler, Manager, Senior Procurement, acQuire and Accounts Payable. “Then we got a call from Jaggaer saying that people were still talking about the presentation. After we said we were getting calls as well they said they weren’t talking about clients but Jaggaer’s own development team. I think this shows that Queen’s is really leading in this space.”

Since the presentation and webcast the Queen’s Procurement team has received a number of contacts and several Ontario universities have scheduled visits to see first-hand how Queen’s has implemented, and continues to improve, the system. A network of users is being created that is beneficial for all, including Queen’s, now and in the long term.

“We now have networked to a greater group of people who will help us make this tool just that much better,” Fowler says. “We want to make sure that we are not standing still, and instead look for what we can do to keep making this better, whether it is the user experience or the information we can get out of the tool. There are other users who are doing some very innovative things. That’s great for us because now we can work together to make it better for all.”

The acQuire program was brought in to modernize Queen’s University’s procurement and accounts payable systems. Unlike the majority of education sector users, Queen’s opted for a university-wide implementation. The user-friendly program allows staff and faculty to use a single username and password to access different vendors. Much like an online shopping experience, users are able to place multiple products in their virtual shopping cart and only check out once. The implementation process has been smooth and the majority of feedback from acQuire clients has been positive. Support is quick and readily available for anyone having difficulties.

“Everything is located in one convenient location from the start of researching the product, placing the order, getting approvals, paying the invoice, to helpful links, policies, procedures and forms,” says Bonnie Fleming, Purchasing Assistant, IT Services. “Probably the most important aspect is the support and backup that we know we can always depend on from the Procurement team. Knowing that they are just a phone call away and that they truly care that our experience is a positive one is priceless.”

Other benefits of acQuire include reducing the wait times between placing an order and having it filled by the supplier, fast, electronic communication with suppliers, full transparency  and ability to track a purchase requisition to P.O., explains Nicki Mundell, Procurement Systems Analyst and Solution Administrator.

“The change from paper cheque requisitioning to electronic remittance forms was one of our biggest successes with acQuire. The change created transparency for our Procurement and Finance teams as well as the end users,” she says. “The technology enabled us to build specific forms for our client needs, and we now manage about 95 percent of paper payment requests flowing through the system, providing more efficient processing times and cutting the number of steps for the entire process in half.” After a recent analysis, Procurement has also identified that 98 percent of PDF forms related to procurement exceptions are now routing electronically as well – resulting in a significant reduction of paper processing for exception related transactions at Queen’s.

However, the success of the system wouldn’t have been possible without support and acceptance by the Queen’s staff and faculty, both point out.

To learn how to get the maximum benefits from using acQuire, contact the acQuire team by email or visit their website.

USW Local 2010 and QUFA support transition to UPP, ratify collective agreements

United Steelworkers Local 2010 and Queen’s University Faculty Association members have voted to support the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP), moving the university closer to a new, sustainable defined benefit pension plan for the future. 

More than 96 per cent of votes cast by QUFA members who are Queen’s Pension Plan members voted in support of a renewed collective agreement and consent to the UPP. USW Local 2010 members cast 96.4 per cent of votes in favour. 

The ratifications mean that USW Local 2010 and QUFA will be providing consent to the proposed UPP on behalf of the members of the Queen’s Pension Plan that they represent. Pension consent agreements form part of the USW and QUFA collective agreements. 

The conversion to the UPP requires a formal consent process, set out in provincial statutes and regulations. Employees represented by USW and faculty associations are now the first groups of plan members to give their representative unions and associations a mandate to support the UPP through to conclusion.  

“The ratifications by the USW and QUFA are major steps forward in our journey towards the UPP,” says Donna Janiec, Queen’s Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “I want to thank everyone involved for their support in getting us to this point. It represents years of hard work.” 

The USW and faculty associations at the two other founding UPP universities, the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph, have also ratified agreements to support the UPP. 

“We are very pleased that QUFA and USW Local 2010 members recognize that supporting the UPP represents a move towards ensuring we have a defined benefit pension plan that will provide strong, dependable retirement income for pension members at Queen’s in the long-term,” says Janiec.

In order to reach the mandated level of consent to introduce the new plan, Queen’s still requires the support of other unions and its non-unionized employees. The university will continue its discussions with other union groups, and will be providing additional information to non-unionized employees who are required to vote individually.  

The UPP will be a jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP), initially inclusive of three universities – Queen’s University, the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. Employers and plan members will jointly govern it. Other universities across Ontario will be able to join, once the UPP is established.  

The UPP follows the model of other well-known, defined benefit pension plans, such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).  

 More information about the UPP and the ongoing consent process is available on the UPP website.

Queen’s joins University Climate Change Coalition

Partnership brings together leading research institutions to advance sustainability efforts.

Small windmill models on a table next to people working on laptops.
Queen’s has joined the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), a group of 19 North American research institutions collaborating to accelerate local action against climate change. (Photo courtesy of RawPixel, Unsplash)

Queen’s University is now the newest member of the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), a group of 19 leading North American research institutions united in a collaborative effort to accelerate local action against climate change.

Together, UC3 members leverage their institutional strengths to foster cross-sector partnerships and knowledge sharing aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and nurturing community resilience.

“A sustainable future has long been the goal of many research, teaching, and campus initiatives taking place here at Queen’s University,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The challenge of climate change is one that demands the world’s collective efforts, and post-secondary institutions can and lead the search for solutions. I look forward to the joint contributions that Queen’s and our new partners can continue to make in this area.”

Each UC3 member commits to convening a climate change forum within the first year of membership, bringing together community and business leaders, elected officials, advocates, and other stakeholders in their local areas to discuss research needs, science-based climate solutions, knowledge gaps, priorities, and recommendations.

Preliminary plans are in development to host a forum at Queen’s during Sustainability Week in October 2019. Community members are invited to provide input on what the forum could look like via the Sustainable Ideas form.

“Queen’s has and continues to be committed to strengthening a culture of sustainability within our campus community,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “We look forward to collaborating with our UC3 partners as we continue striving to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Queen’s has a long history of sustainability efforts on campus. Recent initiatives include construction on the West Campus District Energy Conversion Project to reduce the university’s GHG emissions; the launch of a new Sustainability Working Group; joining Sustainable Kingston’s Green Economy Program; and offering a new Sustainability @ Queen’s learning module to provide an overview of sustainability at Queen’s and the opportunities staff have to get involved.

Formed in February 2018, UC3 is comprised of post-secondary institutions across Canada, Mexico, and the United States, including:

  • Arizona State University
  • Boston University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Tecnológico de Monterrey
  • La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Ohio State University
  • State University of New York
  • University of Arizona
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Washington
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of California
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Queen’s University

 

Queen’s Pension Plan Annual General Meeting and pensioner info session

Queen's Pension Plan AGM and UPP information session is Friday, Dec. 14 at 1 pm in the Ellis Hall Auditorium.

The Queen’s Pension Plan Annual General Meeting takes place on Friday, Dec. 14, in Ellis Auditorium, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm.

An information session for pensioners about the proposed University Pension Plan will follow the AGM portion of the meeting.

Universities proposing new joint pension plan

[University Pension Plan town hall at Grant Hall]
Approximately 300 members of the Queen's community attended a town hall session on the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP) in Grant Hall on Thursday, Nov. 22. (University Communications)

Queen’s University is working with the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph with the goal of launching a new jointly sponsored pension plan for the Ontario university sector. If given the go-ahead, it would follow the same successful structure as some of the largest and most financially-successful pensions in Canada, such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).

The new plan would be known as the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP), and if approved by the universities’ current pension plan members, will ensure Queen’s can continue to provide sustainable defined retirement benefits to their employees in the future.

Approximately 300 people attended a town hall session in Grant Hall on Thursday, Nov. 22, where they heard from pension experts Allan Shapira and Elizabeth Brown, who have been presenting information on the proposed UPP at town halls at all three universities.

In recent years, there has been a trend across all sectors away from offering defined benefit pension plans. At the same time, years of low interest rates, volatile investment markets, and rising life expectancy have led to funding shortfalls and climbing contribution rates for university pension plans.

“Traditional defined benefit pension plans face significant sustainability pressures,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration), who hosted the Queen’s town hall session. “The status quo for existing university pension plans cannot be sustained over the long-term. Some form of change is both necessary and inevitable.”

More information sessions
Queen’s University is holding additional information sessions for all employees and pensioners on the pension plan proposal. Members will be part of a consent process that is expected to begin in early 2019.
SESSIONS
Friday, Nov. 30 - All - 10 am-Noon - Grant Hall
Friday, Nov. 30 - QUFA - 2-4 pm - Grant Hall
Friday, Dec. 14* - Pensioners 1-2:30 pm - Ellis Auditorium
*note: This session will be incorporated into the Queen’s University Pension Plan Annual General Meeting.
You will find details of the UPP plan design, information on upcoming events, and have an opportunity to submit questions on the UPP website. Additional information can be found on the Queen’s University Pension Services page.

University administrations believe that the proposed UPP is the best way to protect plan members’ existing accrued benefits while ensuring the survival and long-term sustainability of a defined benefit plan, in a world where there are fewer and fewer such plans.

Jointly sponsored pension plans (JSPPs) are recognized globally as a proven model that can generate higher-return and more stable investment opportunities by pooling funds across a larger membership base. They also provide greater transparency into plan operations, funding and decision-making through joint governance and open information sharing. JSPPs have come to be known as the “Canadian Model” and research has shown that it has led to efficiency and success though an alignment around the shared interest of serving plan beneficiaries.

The Ontario Government and stakeholders at the three universities broadly support the move to a new model and are committed to working together. On Nov. 15, Ontario Finance Minister, Victor Fedeli, released A Plan for the People: Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review (the Fall Economic Statement).  In it, the government stated that it is committed to improving the pension system for the university sector, and that a jointly sponsored plan can help achieve that goal through efficiencies of scale, improved investment opportunities, and savings in plan administration.

If members agree, the creation of the UPP will involve the merger of the existing pension plans at the University of Toronto, University of Guelph, and Queen’s University into a new plan. All pension benefits earned prior to the start of the UPP would be protected, and pension benefits of retired members would not change.

“The UPP offers the best approach to protect members’ existing accrued benefits, reduce volatility in contribution levels, and create a long-term, jointly-governed, financially-sustainable defined benefit plan for our employees,” says Vice-Principal Janiec.

Once created, the UPP will be open to other Ontario universities to join, eventually creating a sector-wide plan and an even larger pool, which will mean greater efficiencies, investment opportunities and better sharing of pension costs and risks.

To help ensure all plan members have the information they need to make an informed decision on the proposal when asked to participate in a consent process in early 2019, information has been shared with employees, made available online, and is being communicated at a series of informational town hall meetings on campus. Additional information will be sent to employees as part of the consent process.

“Engaging our employees about their pensions can be challenging,” says Vice-Principal Janiec. “People have varied familiarity with the terminologies being used. This information-sharing process is all about trying to demystify pensions and help people appreciate that everyone involved is working hard to adapt to the pressures facing our plans and to ensure future plan members’ benefits will be there for them when they choose to retire.”

November Town Halls will outline proposed pension plan changes

Queen’s University, University of Guelph and The University of Toronto, together with their faculty associations, the United Steelworkers (USW) and representatives of the non-unionized employees at the three universities (through the Ontario Association of Non-Unionized University Employees) are working diligently to develop a new pension plan to cover employees at all three universities, The University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP).

Queen’s University invites all pension plan members to attend one of the following Town Hall information session on the proposed changes:

Date 

Audience

Time 

Location 

November 22

All

10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Grant Hall 

November 30

All

10 am -12 pm

Grant Hall

November 30

QUFA

2 pm - 4 pm 

Grant Hall

December 14*

Pensioners

1 pm – 2:30 pm

Ellis Auditorium (following the Queen’s Pension Plan AGM)

2017-18 Financial Statements approved by Board

The university's 2017-18 financial performance enabled investments in key priorities. 

The Queen’s Board of Trustees recently approved the university’s 2017-18 Financial Statements – a formal document which details how the university earned and spent its money in the last fiscal year.

As these Consolidated Financial Statements detail, during the 2017-18 fiscal year Queen's achieved a consolidated surplus of $74.9 million.

This surplus was primarily the result of higher than anticipated student enrolments in degree and non-degree programs, and also reflects the efforts of faculties and shared services to help the university manage its finances and plan for future strategic investments.  It also reflects anticipated surpluses to accommodate capital project financing.

“These financial results put us in good stead and will allow Queen's to make prudent investments into our strategic priorities,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “These include our faculty renewal plan which will see us hire 200 new faculty over five years; new diversity, inclusivity and reconciliation initiatives; and ongoing investments aimed at supporting research excellence across Queen's.”

As the statement outlines, Queen's is actively assessing and managing a number of ongoing financial risks. Along with other universities in the province, Queen's has a significant deferred maintenance backlog. Further, university revenues are largely decided by grant and tuition rates, which are controlled by the provincial and federal governments.

The university also continues to address its financially unsustainable pension plan as together with the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and employee groups, we have designed a new jointly sponsored pension plan, the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP). Once established, other Ontario universities will have the option of joining the UPP.

Ms. Janiec says these financial challenges are taken into account in the university’s operational plans and governance oversight. The senior leadership team continues to monitor and mitigate the risks to help manage Queen’s long-term financial competitiveness.

“Under the leadership of Principal Daniel Woolf, Queen's has worked hard over the past nine years to achieve a strong financial position and it is now serving us well,” says Ms. Janiec. “This coming year, we will open a new building on campus, Mitchell Hall. It will be a hub for wellness and innovation activities and, as with all things at Queen's, it will feature a seamless blend of our heritage and traditions with the latest modern thinking and design. It is a fitting symbol of the progress underway at our university and the bright future we are navigating towards together.

To read the Financial Statement 2017-18, visit the Financial Services website.

Tabling your furniture orders

A smoother process has been created for employees submitting furniture orders valued at less than $50,000.

[Queen's University Centre for Teaching and Learning chair furniture]
The Centre for Teaching and Learning's stylish office has been attracting plenty of attention from other university offices looking to spruce up their presentation. (University Communications)

Following a review of the furniture acquisition process, the University Secretariat and Legal Counsel, together with key stakeholders, has made a number of changes and improvements to the way staff can make their requests for a new filing cabinet, desk, chair, or a whole new office suite.

“The Queen’s community places thousands of furniture orders per year, so centralizing this contract means substantial time and cost savings for the university,” says Yvonne Holland, Director of Lease and Contract Management. “Under this new process, those seeking to place furniture orders now enjoy greater selection, lower costs, and faster turnaround. I want to thank all those who helped us investigate this challenge and create this new resource for the Queen’s community.”

Ms. Holland’s team inherited responsibility for this contract in the fall of 2017, and formed an interdepartmental team to study the issue. The team created a Request for Supplier Quote and, following the public tender, three vendors were selected in the spring.

As part of this new contract, the vendors are bringing new furniture options and a host of new furniture services to the Queen’s community. These include storage options, and drawing services to help plan out office layouts. In addition, annual report cards will be generated by Queen’s to log the performance of each vendor, and inform future purchases.

“At the library we are continuously updating our spaces based on our user needs and feedback. This new service package gives us greater choice in design, and offers price point comparisons from vendors," says Nancy Petri, Manager, Finance and Administrative Operations with the Library. "Services such as a quick ship also provide us with greater flexibility when time is of the essence. This new furniture acquisitions process helps us do an even better job of meeting the needs of the Queen’s community.”

The online furniture order forms can be found at www.queensu.ca/forms. Next, the team hopes to design a similar process for larger furniture orders, and roll out a furniture acquisition and installation toolkit.

If you have questions about this new process, or if you have a university lease or license agreement which you would like reviewed, please contact Yvonne Holland from the University Secretariat, Leasing and Contract Management at hollandy@queensu.ca or 613 533-6000 x77906.

Campus construction

Physical Plant Services to finish over 50 deferred maintenance, renovation, and revitalization projects this summer.

  • A construction team works on renovations to Mitchell Hall (Photo: PPS)
    A construction team works on renovations to Mitchell Hall (Photo: PPS)
  • A crane supports a construction worker on top of Fleming Hall (Photo: PPS)
    A crane supports a construction worker on top of Fleming Hall (Photo: PPS)
  • Workers outside of Jackson Hall work on refurbishments to the main entrance (Photo: PPS)
    Workers outside of Jackson Hall work on refurbishments to the main entrance (Photo: PPS)
  • Construction continues on Mitchell Hall (Photo: PPS)
    Construction continues on Mitchell Hall (Photo: PPS)
  • Stone restoration on Nicol Hall. (Photo: PPS)
    Stone restoration on Nicol Hall. (Photo: PPS)

While most students are away from campus for the summer, Physical Plant Services (PPS) takes the opportunity of clear weather and reduced foot traffic to tackle renovations, deferred maintenance, and revitalization projects. 

The teams at PPS have over 50 projects to finish before the start of classes. The work completed this summer contributes to the overall Queen’s infrastructure strategy, aiming to address $300 million worth of deferred maintenance in the next 10 to 12 years. These projects help modernize the campus with more sustainable and accessible infrastructure.

Projects can include classroom renovations, office renovations, kitchen upgrades, washroom upgrades, safety additions, roof maintenance, sprinkler replacements, masonry improvements, heating and cooling upgrades, fire alarm system upgrades, and elevator maintenance/upgrades. Some of the larger recent projects across campus include:

  • ARC: Administrative office renovations (second floor) and coach’s office renovations
  • Ban Righ Centre: Kitchen upgrade and elevator modernization
  • Chown Hall: Elevator modernization
  • Bio Sciences Complex: Minor laboratory renovations
  • Duncan McArthur Hall: Gender neutral single user washrooms and classroom renovations (second and third floors)
  • Goodes Hall: Renovations to the Career Advancement Centre
  • Harkness Hall: Supply and exhaust fan and heating system refurbishment
  • Jackson Hall: Main entrance stair refurbishment
  • John Watson Hall: Roof repairs
  • MacDonald Hall: Office and study area renovations and air conditioning system installation
  • McLaughlin Hall: New windows, improved entrances and ventilation, and renovated washrooms
  • Nicol Hall: Stone restoration
  • Stuart Street garage: Sprinkle system replacement
  • Robert Sutherland Hall: Room renovations (541, 542, 543, and 548)

PPS works with groups across campus to minimize the interruptions felt during renovation projects.

"Although many of the deferred maintenance projects do not result in visible changes to the campus, they are fundamental to ensure that the campus remains safe and able to accommodate the needs of occupants, buildings are operating as efficiently as possible, and we continue to improve accessibility throughout the campus,” says Carola Bloedorn, Director of Design and Construction with PPS. “For those inconvenienced as a result of these projects, we thank you for your understanding that sometimes there needs to be short term pain for long term gain.”

To find out more about these projects and learn which projects are ongoing in August, visit the PPS interactive map.

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