At the Pension Forum, Sunday night, Jackie Dwyer explained how after 31 years of services she finally joined a pension plan when her local negotiated joining the Multi Sector Pension Plan (MSPP). Now, a CUPE Pension Trustee for the MSPP, Dwyer stressed the importance for members who don’t have a pension plan to negotiate their entrance into the MSPP. She explained the structure of the MSPP and how it gives our members a better benefit when they retire.
Participants heard about one of last year’s major pension bargaining victories in Nova Scotia. Wayne Thomas, a staff representative in Nova Scotia, told CUPE delegates how some awareness amongst the membership about the pension plan was key to the successful campaign of the hospital workers in Nova Scotia to secure a better pension plan. The campaign focussed on the contribution holidays that were taken by the employer and not properly disclosed to the plan members. The campaign also brought in other unions in a common front on the pension issues. The employer tried to argue that we could not bargain pension and try to convince the Labour Board that CUPE was bargaining in bad faith. The Labour Board decided that the employer was wrong and issued an important decision on the right of unions to bargain pension. Finally, the employer had to go back to the table and negotiate the pension issues.
The members were also brought up to date on the solvency issues. Raymond Léger, Research Representative for the Maritimes Region, spoke about how the solvency of pension plans has been dealt with in New Brunswick. The solvency in a pension plan is when calculation is made to evaluate the assets and the expenses of a plan as if the plan would wind-up at a certain date. Léger explained how the idea of a solvency test was brought into the pension laws to deal with bankruptcies of companies in the private sector. In New Brunswick, the province changed the pension law to exclude municipalities and universities from the solvency test. The members and the retirees have to vote on such action. It also states that if there is a bankruptcy, the employer is still responsible to pay the deficiency.
Finally, Bob Baldwin, a pension specialist who was working for the Canadian Labour Congress for many years, made a presentation on the activity of the Ontario Commission on Pension. This Commission will examine the funding of defined benefits pension plan. Brother Baldwin told the participants about the importance for unions to intervene with the Commission and to address issues such as solvency rules, surplus rules, and funding policies proposals. He also raised the issue that pension legislation historically was designed for private sector pension plans and that special attention should be drawn to public sector pension plans.