Members get rare chance to oppose bill that threatens pensions

2017.03.31 | CWA Canada Local 30213 - Canadian Media Guild

PSAC poster Public Service Alliance of Canada is one of many unions demanding withdrawal of Bill C-27.

The retirement security of a majority of CWA Canada members — past and present — is threatened by proposed amendments to federal pension legislation. However, they have a rare opportunity to get the government’s ear on the matter.

Bill C-27, which aims to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, would immediately affect pensions at Crown corporations such as the CBC and at federally regulated private-sector companies. It would touch upon virtually all members of this union’s largest Local, the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), as well as on working or retired members who have a defined benefit (DB) pension plan, which could be altered retroactively.

The CMG rallied its members who engaged their MPs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and turned out for a Day of Action on Parliament Hill in early February.

“We were effective,” reported Jonathan Spence, president of the Guild’s CBC Branch. Morneau recognized the CMG’s efforts and “has asked us to consult on the bill by sending a written submission outlining our concerns and possible solutions.”

With the submission due on May 15, Spence has asked members to send him their concerns or suggestions for possible inclusion in the brief.

(These can be emailed to jonathanspence.cmg@gmail.com or to Kamala Rao, national president, at kam@cmg.ca.)

“While it’s heartening that we are being consulted, this also means that the bill in its present form is still under consideration,” said Spence. He added that it would likely be necessary to “roll out further actions.”

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, sent a letter to Morneau in November, urging him to abandon Bill C-27, which has been vociferously opposed by other unions and the Canadian Labour Congress.

“DB pensions operate under a legal covenant obliging employers to fund employees’ earned benefits, guaranteeing retirement security regardless of market volatility. Already-earned (or “accrued”) benefits are legally protected, and may not be retroactively reduced.

“Bill C-27 would remove that legal obligation and encourage a proliferation of target benefit (TB) pension plans instead, potentially lowering benefits for both current and future retirees,” wrote O’Hanlon.

By permitting the conversion of DB to TB plans, Bill C-27 invites employers “to abandon their pension promises to employees and retirees” (and is a) “betrayal of the legal rights and protections of plan members.”

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