“I think today is a medicare moment for pensions,” guest speaker Joel Harden told the crowd at CUPE Manitoba’s annual division convention.
CUPE members from across the province met this week at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Participants discussed many pressing issues such as child care and protecting public services. However, with federal and provincial governments openly pondering pension reform, Harden, a researcher with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), articulated what many at the convention were thinking – now is the time for action on pensions.
“Pensions for everyone is what CUPE should stand for,” CUPE National President Paul Moist said in his opening speech to convention. Moist canvassed the crowd to find that one third of the members in the room knew someone over 80 living on less than $15,000 per year. “This just reinforces to me that reform is long overdue. We need universal access to decent pensions, and we need it now.”
Moist’s sentiments were echoed by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton.
Selinger reinforced his commitment to better pensions for Manitobans by outlining recent steps the government has taken. The provincial government has introduced new pension regulations, which include restrictions on contribution holidays for employers, and more flexibility for workers to buy extra benefits.
“People being able to retire with dignity should be an important part of living in this province,” said Selinger.
Layton addressed a cheering crowd on Friday, taking the opportunity to thank labour for bringing the issue of pension reform to the forefront.
“Retirement security these days is one big question mark, and I want to thank CUPE for putting the issue on the map,” said Layton.
“For one-twentieth of the cost of the corporate tax cuts the Harper government is proposing, we could lift every senior above the poverty line.”
CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux said the fight for better pensions is a fight for working people. “This issue is so important - not just for CUPE members, but for working Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”
The Federal Department of Finance is holding consultations this month to discuss solutions to Canada’s current pensions crisis. Both CUPE and the CLC are lobbying for a phased-in doubling of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), an increase to the guaranteed income supplement (GIS), and tighter regulations to protect existing workplace plans from bankruptcy, high-risk investments and employer underfunding.
Learn more about CUPE’s plan for better pensions for all Canadians.