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Thomas demands fairness from OMERS

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In a letter to Michael Rolland, the CEO of the pension plan OMERS, OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas stands up for the retirement rights of part-timers and casuals, and demands ongoing worker oversight at the pension plan.

Here is the full text of the letter:

October 15, 2020 

Michael Rolland 
Chief Executive Officer, OMERS Sponsors Corporation 
EY Tower, 100 Adelaide St W 
Toronto, ON, M5H 0E2 
mrolland@omers.com 

RE: Composition review, arbitration and weighted voting 

Dear Michael, 

Thank you for your presentations in August and October. 

The members of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Pension Liaison Committee and our staff have reviewed the material. We offer the following comments: 

Composition review: 

OPSEU/SEFPO remains strongly opposed to the inclusion of liabilities as a factor in the determination of board composition selection process. These members are the most dependent on their pension in retirement as it will likely make up a significant portion of their retirement income – their pension would therefore have more value to them despite the lower monetary value attached to OMERS liabilities.   

It is these members who most require a voice at the table through sponsor representation.  As a plan sponsor, OPSEU/SEFPO is responsible to represent these members irrespective of their earnings or liabilities in the OMERS plan.   

For similar reasons, OPSEU/SEFPO firmly asserts that representation at the SC board should continue to be based exclusively on population. Furthermore, OPSEU/SEFPO asserts that all members – regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time, or seasonally — should be counted as one full member for the purpose of board allocation.   

Stated another way, OPSEU/SEFPO is strongly opposed to the use of a full-time equivalence to assess board allocation. In OPSEU/SEFPO’s democracy, as with most unions, each member gets a vote. Their employment status does not matter – they each get a vote whether they are ratifying a collective agreement or electing their local president. 

As more and more employers cut workers’ hours and make work more precarious, our members should not be doubly punished by losing their voice on the SC board. This is not the original intention when contemplating the board composition. 

OPSEU/SEFPO would also like to remind OMERS of its recent decision to open the plan to part-time members. Discounting the value of these types of members in your population, even for just the purpose of board composition, would be detrimental in our view. 

Arbitration: 

OPSEU/SEFPO recommends that the SC Board should remove the right of the CEO to select the short list of 3 mediator/arbitrators and have ultimate “say” over final selection, and leave it to the parties to the dispute to decide. 

Additionally, OPSEU/SEFPO would like OMERS SC to consider amending Bylaw #12 (Article 5.1) to enshrine language that preserves the right of both the employer and labour sponsors to participate in the selection process of an arbitrator/mediator.   

The OMERS Sponsors Corporation Board chose in the last round of bylaw changes to proceed with an independent board chair model (Bylaw #4, Article 1.8). OPSEU/SEFPO is requesting that language be put in place to ensure that both the labour and employer representatives retain an equal say in the final selection of an arbitrator. This is of considerable importance as the decision to move to an Independent board Chair/Vice chair model does not guarantee a balance in employer and labour representation beyond 2021.  

OPSEU/SEFPO acknowledges the concerns raised by OMERS related to levying the membership to pay for the cost of arbitration. While this may not be an ideal funding mechanism, we understand that this provision is enshrined in the OMERS Act, 2006 and we would be opposed to re-opening the act to contemplate a change to the arbitration funding mechanism. In the presentation provided to Sponsors at the August sponsors meeting, OMERS acknowledged that this provision has never actually been acted upon. 

Weighted voting: 

OPSEU/SEFPO supports the status quo on the process surrounding weighted voting. 

OPSEU/SEFPO supports keeping the board to 14 directors with 18 votes.  Currently, CUPE and AMO have directors that carry additional weighted votes and we support this as the status quo.   

We affirm that a 2/3 majority vote for the following should be maintained for the following: 

  • Appointment to the OMERS administration board including Board-Chair 
  • Removal of a director from either board. 
  • Exceptional changes to be proposed for consideration and for implementation 
  • Changes required to implement pension transfer agreements 
  • Waiver of timelines for plan changes 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our views on these board considerations. 

Regards, 

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO President