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The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada > News & Events > Communications Magazine > Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring 2010 > Protecting Your Pension
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Protecting Your Pension

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Where Do We Go From Here?

Over the course of the fall and winter months, rumours circulated in the media about possible changes to be brought to the public service pension plan. Two right-leaning organizations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the C.D. Howe Institute, were in the forefront of efforts to convince the federal government to take an axe to “gold-plated” public service pensions in its 2010 Budget.

Calgary rally

PIPSC and PSAC members rallied in Calgary on February 16 to protest the government’s attack on their pension plan.

These blatantly transparent attempts to reduce the “burden” of decent private sector retirement plans by portraying public sector workers as unduly privileged were unsuccessful.

Beginning in January, union leaders held talks to establish a common front against any potential changes to their members’ pension plans. One particularly visible demonstration of union solidarity was the rally attended by several hundred public sector employees on February 16 in Calgary. This sent a strong message to the government that it simply could not ignore.

Press conference

President Gary Corbett joined John Gordon (left), National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in a press conference on March 2, to call on the government to invest in quality public services and in pension reform to ensure a quick and sustainable economic recovery. Standing at the far right is Walter Belyea, PIPSC Acting Manager, Policy & National Representational Services.

At the same time, PIPSC led the counterattack on the media front, making good use of electronic and print media opportunities to present a balanced and accurate view of an issue that affects not just the public service, but all Canadians. The labour movement’s message of more secure retirement plans for all citizens contrasted favourably with the selfish and self-serving “less for all” approach advocated by business community representatives in the name of fiscal responsibility.

These initiatives certainly had an impact on the government’s planning process, as evidenced by the fact that no changes to public service pensions and benefits were mentioned in the Budget tabled on March 4, 2010. Nevertheless, the government did state: “Employee pension and other benefits are not subject to the general operating budget freeze. However, (…), the Government will continue to examine ways in which these costs can be better managed and will engage with public sector bargaining agents to ensure that total costs of compensation are reasonable”. (*) Plan to Return to Budget Balance and Fiscal Outlook, p.183

Pension committee

Vice-President Shannon Bittman, staff members John Staric and Pierre Villon (standing) are working on the pension strategy.

For that reason, it remains critical for the Institute to continue to advocate for the protection of the members’ established pension rights and a number of initiatives have been undertaken in this regard:

  • Lunch and Learn information sessions are being organized across Canada. Ask your steward or Regional Director for details and look for meeting notices on your union bulletin board.
  • The Institute actively encouraged members to attend the federal government’s public consultations hosted by the Minister of Finance on the issue of retirement security in meetings open to the general public in Charlottetown, Québec City and Richmond.
  • The Institute also presented a formal brief to the government’s online consultation process "Ensuring the Ongoing Strength of Canada's Retirement Income System” on behalf of its members. This brief can be found on the PIPSC website under the “Pensions” tab.

We continue to develop other strategies to ensure that the interests of our members are protected as the government reviews the feedback it obtained from the consultation process. Please visit our website regularly for the latest information and developments on the pensions and retirement security issues.

Protect Retirement Security for all Canadians

Millions of Canadians simply do not have enough personal savings, or an adequate pension plan, to ensure a sufficient income at retirement. Others have so little that they are living a hand-to-mouth existence. As proud members of the federal public service, we believe in better pension plans for all Canadians.

Facts:

  • 2 out 3 Canadians have no pension. For those that do, there is a growing fear that they are neither sufficient nor secure.
  • Many Members of Parliament are entitled to a pension in excess of $100,000 a year at retirement, after only 6 years of service.
  • Canada lags behind other OECD countries which provide income replacement of almost 60% at retirement, compared to our 40%.
  • Tens of thousands of middle-class Canadians recently discovered their pensions weren’t protected when their employer went bankrupt.

Canadians deserve the peace of mind of knowing exactly what level of income they will have at retirement. Instead of taking a levelling down approach, the retirement model for all Canadians should be a Defined Benefit plan, similar to what the public service enjoys.

The government must take a leadership role NOW in order to avoid a pension crisis when all of the baby boomers start to retire. Our legacy to the next generation cannot be high taxes and a crippling debt load.

Our recommendations:

  • Increase CPP/QPP
  • Increase OAS/GIS
  • Improve regulatory monitoring so that there will never again be a Nortel fiasco
  • Implement measures that will encourage Defined Benefit plans in the private sector