Mark Janson | CUPE Research

Canadians are walking into a retirement income crisis that will hit equality-seeking groups the hardest

Over 11 million Canadians today – six out of every 10 workers – don’t have a workplace pension plan. Women, racialized workers, Aboriginal workers, LGBTTI workers, and workers with disabilities often experience discrimina­tion that limits their access to even modest retirement security.


Access: Workplace pension plans and the CPP are tied to employment. Since equality-seeking groups are less represented in the formal labour market, they are disproportionately cut out of these plans. If employed, workplace pension plans are often tied to full-time status, which further cuts many equality-seeking workers out of these plans.

Adequacy: The amount a pension plan pays out is related to a worker’s earnings. As workers from equality-seeking groups tend to have lower wages, they will have lower pension payments. Years not in formal employment (such as periods of unemployment, or childbearing or family responsibilities) tend to pull pension payments downwards.

Security: Jobs offering good, secure defined benefit pension plans are generally tied to higher wage positions for CUPE members. Workers in smaller workplaces or lower-paid employment are often in insecure types of pension plans (like defined contribution plans), if they have any pension at all.

What can we do?

Expand the Canada Pension Plan. CUPE and the labour movement have been fighting to double CPP benefits through a modest increase in contributions. Canadians, pension experts, and provincial governments say this is the best way to go. But the federal Conservative government has unilaterally stopped any further talks. The NDP has pledged to expand the CPP when they form government.

Reverse the cuts to Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The federal Conserva­tive government has announced a phased-in increase to the age of eligibility for these important plans from 65 to 67. This strips millions of future Canadian seniors – equality-seeking groups in particular – from two years of important pension payments. This change was unnecessary and can be reversed by electing an NDP federal government.

Improve the Guaranteed Income Supplement to bring all seniors out of poverty. A small increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit levels could bring all Canadian seniors out of poverty. It’s affordable, and we need to push for a federal government that will make it a reality.

Fight for good workplace pension plans. The best way to ensure equality-seeking members have a secure retirement income is to build and protect defined benefit pension plans in our workplaces.

CUPE has many resources to find the best solutions to protect our pensions. Locals have access to researchers, servicing representatives, and pension experts to help build and defend pensions.