Listening to some media pundits, you would think these are dirty words.
They will rail on and on about how “public servants” and “government workers” are bleeding the economy dry with their “gold-plated” pensions, leaving poor taxpayers struggling to foot the bill.
They’ll say “big union bosses” somehow managed to hoodwink unsuspecting employers into providing “cash for life” for unionized workers, while most Ontarians have to save on their own for retirement and many have to scrape by on just the CPP.
How dare these privileged few be allowed to have a pension plan?
My question is this: How dare these rich, corporate elites be allowed to attack those who fought for their rights in the first place?
Here are the bigger questions: What is more important in today’s economy than seniors who don’t live in poverty? Shouldn’t we all be fighting to ensure that every worker in this province, when they reach a certain age, can retire with dignity?
Damn right we should.
But no. If the right-wing has its way, no one should be entitled to an employer-sponsored pension plan. And they try to accomplish this goal by setting those without a plan against those who have one. It’s sad, it’s mean, and it’s destructive. Yet, people buy into it.
But what is exactly is this windfall that everyone should be so jealous of? It helps if you actually know the numbers.
If you work in health care, the average pension is $23,500. If you work in Ontario’s colleges, it’s $26,226. And if you work in the Ontario Public Service (and these are the workers that are most often referred to as having those “gold-plated” pension plans) the average yearly pension is $20,351.
That’s right. Just over $20,000. Not gold. Not even gold-plated. In fact, it is just barely a livable income.
But still, it’s something. It’s something that these workers fought for years ago; something that these workers collectively bargained for, often giving up gains in other areas to achieve. Think of money that employers put into pension plans as “deferred wages” for the workers.
Pension plans are not a gift to workers. They put dollars out of every pay cheque throughout their working lives into their pensions.
The media also avoids reporting that these pension plans are working. None of these plans are in deficit. They don’t have any unfunded liabilities. They will provide a yearly income (albeit not a fortune) for retirees to live on. Compare that to the relative instability of the Canada Pension Plan.
And really…isn’t that what we should all be striving for? Instead of begrudging those who have a pension plan, shouldn’t we be fighting so that every worker in Ontario has one?
Two very good things happen when a worker retires with a decent pension. A job with a decent future opens up for a younger worker. And the retiree is in a financial position to contribute to the local economy, to pay taxes, to live independently, and to support the community.
Pension plans, on every level, just make good sense. Two-thirds of Ontario workers do not have a company pension plan.
It’s time to change that.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida