April 1, 2010
Patty Rout, First Vice-President / Treasurer delivers message today at the Ontario Legislature on Bill 236, An Act to amend the Pensions Benefit Act. In addition to the submission of OPSEU’s core brief, the Ambulance Division has also submitted a separate brief. The summary of recommendations are as follows:
- The issue of coverage must be resolved as 60% of Ontarians remain without adequate retirement incomes. OPSEU is committed to universal coverage as the central issue of pension reform. We appreciate the working accord between the federal and provincial governments on pension policy and research.
- We urge the Ministry of Finance to move forward on the introduction of the second phase of pension reform. There remain major issues of pension policy to be addressed: pension funding rules, the use of plan surpluses and benefit security through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF).
- We urge completion of the study on increasing the benefits of the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund. Our brothers and sisters in the private sector have suffered substantial pension losses through no fault of their own.
- OPSEU strongly recommends that the OPTrust be enabled to broaden the scope of its mandate through immediate regulatory change as the government has achieved for Teachers’ and OMERS.
- To avoid split pensions and ensure portability in the future, groups of OPSEU members who are being divested, sometimes several times over, must be assured that their pension will follow them wherever they go. This requires a regulation to the OPSEU Pension Trust Act to cover divestments in all sectors.
- We appreciate the attempt to remedy historic injustices. However, we propose that the major pension plans (rather than originating and successor employers) be charged with negotiating framework agreements (much like reciprocal agreements for individuals) to facilitate the transfer of assets and to remedy the losses suffered by OPSEU members in the past. These negotiations should occur within the strict timelines of 2013 and failure to do so should result in intervention by the Superintendant. OPSEU strongly opposes any lengthening of this timeline. Justice delayed is justice denied. These negotiations must be structured to provide a remedy for all affected whether plan member or retiree.
- For those with pensions in both the private and public sectors, portability must be ensured and split pensions must be avoided at all costs. An agency for stranded pensions, as recommended by the Arthurs Commission, may be helpful for those with work for several employers or whose work is especially mobile. OPSEU encourages the establishment of the Ontario Pension Agency throughproclamation of section 103 of the PBA.
- We support the immediate vesting of pensions and amendments providing for higher thresholds for lump sums.
- OPSEU strongly supports the expansion of grow-in rights to ‘involuntary terminations of employment. It will mitigate the loss of plan members’ rights through the elimination of partial wind-ups of plans. We hope that the regulator will follow the intention of the Arthurs Report in establishing as broad a definition of ‘involuntary’ as possible with the exception of terminations for ‘just cause’.
- OPSEU also supports the proposal that jointly sponsored (JSPPs) and multiemployer pension plans (MEPPs) may elect not to provide these benefits. We do not support the view that an exemption for grow-in benefits should be automatic rather than elected as some large plans have proposed.
- OPSEU recommends that the government study the implementation of phased retirement programs as suggested by the Ontario Expert Commission onPensions; but, if the government intends to continue, that such programs be subject of collective bargaining.
- OPSEU therefore agrees with the Arthurs Commission that the regulator should give stakeholders notice to comment before new regulations are introduced; further, that this should be a requirement of the Pension Benefits Act.