TORONTO Any attempt to use pension funds for a P3 redevelopment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Healths Queen Street West facility would be a slap in the face to public sector workers, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan called on Borealis Funds Management Inc., which is partly owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), to stay out of public-private partnerships in the health care sector. CUPE members make up almost half the active membership of the pension plan.
OMERS has handed its investment managers $100 million of our members own money, given to OMERS in trust, to use against us, Ryan said. These P3 schemes are a scam designed to cut public sector jobs and destroy collective agreements.
Public-private partnerships get capital costs off government books by having private companies build facilities and lease them back to the government. The private companies usually manage the buildings, including maintenance and custodial services. OMERS official policy is not to invest in areas that could harm services; however, it also agreed to set aside $100 million for investment in hospitals.
Ryan was joined at a Queens Park news conference by Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU); Barb Wahl, president of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), and Rhonda Kimberley-Young, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF). All four unions have members in OMERS. OPSEU and ONA represent most of the workers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Casselman said that a P3 proposal for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is a dismal failure, measured against the federal government’s criteria from the Industry Canada website, scoring at most 1.5 out of 11. She was horrified that workers pension funds could be part of it.
“If you want to understand perversion, think about this idea: A pension plan takes your money, invests it in a P3, which boots you out of your unionized job, then hires you back at 75 per cent of your previous pay, no benefits and no pension plan. And they say they are doing this in your best interest! Now that is perverse.”
“One thing we don’t want to see is the contracting out of hospital support services,” said ONA’s Barb Wahl. “Nurses do not want to see patients put at risk because of competition for contracts. I shudder to think what might have happened if the SARS-affected hospitals had been privatized. What masks and supplies would have been available, and when?”
Despite the OMERS policy against investing in areas that would harm services, Borealis is a preferred bidder for Bramptons William Osler Health Centre redevelopment a P3 that involves services, Ryan said.
Joint trusteeship of the OMERS plan would be one way to ensure that workers pension monies are not used against them, said Rhonda Kimberley-Young.
We know how important joint trusteeship is from our fight to get some control of the Teachers Pension Plan, she said. Its time to take OMERS out of the control of the provincial government and let the members have a say.
Joint trusteeship will mean bringing union values to OMERS investing, Ryan agreed. The other way to protect pension monies and jobs is to defeat the Tories in the next provincial election, he added.
Ontario needs a government that recognizes its responsibility to provide quality public services in a way that provides value to taxpayers and protects jobs, he said.
For more information, contact:
Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications
Peter D. Birt, ONA Communications
Katie Fitz Randolph, OPSEU Communications Officer
Rhonda Kimberley-Young, President