DynaLIFE Labs, a company contracted by the Alberta government to privatize health care services, is trying to take away a pension plan from its employees. The twist? DynaLIFE’s majority shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), a pension plan serving over half a million Canadians.
In 2022, Alberta’s UCP government awarded DynaLIFE the contract to take over Alberta Precision Lab services. More than 1,000 employees were transferred in early December to the private company. Those employees were members of the Alberta-based, Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP). CUPE and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta represent the employees.
DynaLIFE has made an application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board asking that the terms of the collective agreement covering the transferred employees be changed to remove them from their defined benefit pension plan and replace it with an RRSP contribution plan at a much lower value.
This is déjà vu for some of these employees, who lost pension service when the Alberta government privatized lab services to the same company in 1996. After private lab services proved inadequate to serve the public, the government brought the labs back in-house in 2005.
“If Alberta conservatives can’t understand that public health care is better, the least they can do is not mess with the retirements of people who spend their lives caring for Alberta patients,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “The fact this is being done a second time, by a company owned by a pension plan, is galling, uncaring, and just greedy.”
Gill is a member of the Sponsor Board of LAPP and says there is nothing preventing DynaLIFE from applying to be an employer with that plan.
CUPE Ontario is a sponsor of OMERS, and more than 125,000 CUPE members working for Ontario municipalities, school districts, and healthcare facilities are active members of the pension plan.
CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn says he is appalled to hear about a company owned by OMERS booting workers off their pension plan.
“OMERS board members and their CEO will be hearing from CUPE,” said Hahn. “You can’t be a defined benefit pension plan, encouraging employers and unions to come on board, and invest in anti-worker companies.”
“You either believe in providing workers a decent, dignified retirement, or you do not. And right now, it looks like OMERS and DynaLIFE do not believe that. That’s hypocritical and unjustifiable.”