OPSEU members with less than 10 years’ service in the OPTrust pension plan will now be eligible to purchase alternate post-retirement benefits under a new agreement signed between the union and the Ontario government.
In February 2014, the government unilaterally announced changes to the eligibility requirements and forced all OPSEU Pension Plan (OPTrust) members to pay half the cost of their post-retirement benefits premiums, effective January 1, 2017. These measures would have cost OPTrust retirees between $900 and $1,600 annually.
After numerous and persistent negotiations between OPSEU and the employer, the government finally changed course. On November 11, 2016, the union and the Ontario government signed a memorandum of settlement that set out an alternate post-retirement benefits plan for OPTrust members retiring after December 31, 2016.
While this was good news for a huge number of OPTrust members, a significant group of employees were excluded from the settlement: those who would not have 10 years of pensionable credit before January 1, 2017, and who would likely retire before they had the newly required 20 years’ credit in the pension plan. As such, they would not have been able to enrol in the alternate post-retirement benefits plan. They will be required to pay the full cost, but the cost is half of the original plan.
OPSEU heard these workers’ concerns and went back to the employer.
Following a series of productive consultations, the union convinced the employer to enhance the original deal to ensure that no member was left behind. Accordingly, current employees with less than 10 years of pension credit – but who will have at least 10 years’ credit in the pension plan when they retire – may now choose to enrol in the alternative benefits plan. “Once again, we see the power of collective negotiation at work here,” observed Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “Where individuals fighting for their pension rights would have little chance against the might of the provincial government, the union was able to bend the will of the government.
“This is a victory for everyone: for OPTrust members, for the labour movement, and yes, even for the government,” said Thomas. “Because it demonstrates that they can listen when the voice of reason – and justice and common decency – speaks out.
“I’m indebted to our tireless negotiators for their efforts, and I thank all of our members for their input and patience as we worked to resolve this very important issue.”