OMERS LogoYesterday, CUPE filed a legal challenge with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) about the OMERS pension plan’s treatment of paramedic members accessing earlier retirement options.

“Paramedics have been demanding that OMERS allow them fair access to earlier retirement options for over a decade,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, about the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. “Now OMERS is saying working paramedics can transition to earlier retirement options only at the risk of deep cuts to their pensions. This is completely unacceptable, and these front-line workers simply deserve better.”

Paramedics are recognized in federal law as a Public Safety Occupation, a designation that according to the Canada Revenue Agency acknowledges their working conditions as situations “where the limitations associated with ageing are common and have the potential to significantly endanger the safety of the general public”. Paramedics are eligible for earlier retirement options under federal law if their pension plan allows it.

“Access to earlier retirement is a health and safety issue for paramedics on the front lines and for the people we serve in the community,” said Peter Joseph, an active paramedic and chair of CUPE’s Ambulance Committee of Ontario. “Our work as paramedics takes an enormous physical and mental toll, and OMERS is refusing to recognize that reality.”

“Ontario pension law dictates that the value of a worker’s accrued defined pension benefit can’t be reduced, but we believe that OMERS is doing just that with its rules for paramedic members’ transition to earlier retirement options,” said Hahn. “It’s our hope that this challenge will reverse OMERS rules that shortchange paramedics and ensure they have access to what they’re entitled to: earlier retirement options and a decent retirement.”

CUPE has raised these concerns with OMERS for months and has attempted to work with the pension fund on a solution.