OMERS LogoCUPE Ontario is marking the end of 2023 with a shout-out to the determined CUPE members who belong to the OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) pension plan: this year, these members ran a successful campaign, Cancel the Cuts, and their activism has ensured that no reductions will be made to their OMERS pensions.

Their campaign began as a fightback against anticipated reductions to the pensions of OMERS retirees. For two years, OMERS’ Sponsors Corporation (SC) had been conducting a review, which it called “plan risk assessment” of the pension plan. The review was carried out in secret and behind closed doors, leading plan members to suspect that cuts were in the works.

The Cancel the Cuts campaign was created in early 2023, with CUPE Ontario working alongside fellow plan sponsor OPSEU/SEFPO. The campaign trained dozens of pension activists to mobilize plan members to fight any proposals for changes to OMERS. They held meetings with workplace colleagues, worked with CUPE locals to pass resolutions against cuts to OMERS, and gathered signatures on petitions.

Victory came in late fall when, after the years-long review, OMERS’ Sponsors Corporation confirmed that no cuts would be made to the existing plan.

“We knew that there was no case to be made that could justify cuts to members’ pensions. Cancel the Cuts was a sign to OMERS that it would have a fight on its hands if it had gone ahead with changes,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.

“All signs were pointing to the sponsors corporation’s review being a justification of cuts to workers’ pensions. But union members weren’t going to stand for that: they got involved, they mobilized, they spoke to other plan members, and they showed OMERS that it would have a fight on its hand if it tried to cut our pensions.”

Hahn spoke with pride of the work by CUPE members to ensure no cuts were made to the plan.

“This year saw a major win for all OMERS plan members. We are all deeply grateful to the activists who spoke up to defend their and their colleagues’ pensions. The lesson we hope the SC has learned is that they can’t say they’ve consulted us and then do whatever they want – unions should have a direct and unencumbered voice at the table, and we won’t be satisfied until we get it.”