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OPSEU urges OMERS to postpone crucial vote

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On behalf of the thousands of OPSEU members who belong to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has written to the pension plan’s leaders urging them to postpone a crucial vote on the plan’s future.

“OPSEU is formally requesting you delay this vote until such a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control,” wrote Thomas. “OPSEU has many OMERS contributing members working on the front lines of this pandemic. They are risking their lives to keep us safe and do not have the time to focus on understanding these proposed changes.

 “Given the significance of the proposed changes to the plan, it is of the utmost importance that all OMERS plan members be given ample time to take part in the discussion about their pension plan.”

 Here’s the full text of the letter:

March 30, 2020

Michael Rolland, CEO, OMERS Sponsor Corporation
and the OMERS Sponsors Corporation Board of Directors
900-100 Adelaide St W
Toronto, ON, M5H 0E2

Dear Michael and members of the Sponsors Corporation Board,

Thank you for your email notifying the sponsors that the vote on plan changes will continue as scheduled in June 2020. OPSEU does not support your decision to proceed with this vote in the timeframe outlined. I would respectfully request that you reconsider your position in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Given the significance of the proposed changes to the plan, it is of the utmost importance that all OMERS plan members be given ample time to take part in the discussion about their pension plan.

While we appreciate your intent to inform all plan members by providing some information on your web site, that is not what active member engagement should look like. OPSEU has many OMERS contributing members working on the front lines of this pandemic. They are risking their lives to keep us safe and do not have the time to focus on understanding these proposed changes.

We represent high-risk and highly exposed members such as paramedics and hospital support staff. Many other OMERS members are in front line, emergency service work. We are in a high stress, high risk and high anxiety environment. People are worried about their health, personal safety and the welfare of their loved ones and dependents. They are worried about their finances and how they are going to pay bills and purchase groceries.

You defend this action stating that continuing with the plan review is important, prudent and in line with the pension promise. OPSEU does not agree. Performing a plan review is an important part of the SC Board’s role. However, the impact of this pandemic on markets and plan investment is not yet known. Pension plans are funded with a lens for the long term. Making changes now, based on information before the impact of the pandemic is fully known, is not responsible.

The updated website does not include the examples provided in the Sponsors forum. What is currently available is far less information than was previously shared. Given the importance of this particular process, it is disappointing to see scaled back information available.

You have an obligation to ensure members are appropriately informed and engaged in this process. To continue on at this time is not responsible or in line with the plan promise; it is tone deaf and disregards plan members’ ability to focus on proposed changes during this time of crisis.

OPSEU is formally requesting you delay this vote until such a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. It is imperative that members have a full four-month period in which they can actively engage in the process and are able to turn their attention to understanding the scope of the proposed changes.

We understand that OMERS is working to provide continued support to our members and all members of the plan during this COVID-19 crisis. We also know and appreciate that OMERS is focused on the financial security of this plan and its investments during this unprecedented time. Accordingly, we ask OMERS to continue their focus on those priorities and revisit this vote at a time when all members can fully participate and fully educate themselves on the potential implications of these proposed changes.

Respectfully requesting a response as soon as possible.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union