2014 - No. 23
Stepped Up Resistance to
Alberta Government's Attacks on Pensions
Defend the Pensions We Have!
Fight for Pensions for All!
Stand Up For Your Pension
Rally, Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, March 2, 2014.
Resistance to Alberta Government's Attacks on Pensions
• Public Sector Unions Say No! to Alberta
Government's Latest Dictate on Pensions
• Step Up Resistance to
Government Attacks on Pensions - Peggy Askin
• Health Sciences Association of Alberta
• United Nurses of Alberta
• Canadian Union of Public Employees
• Alberta Union of Provincial
• Free the Cuban Five!
• All Out for International
Stepped Up Resistance to Alberta
Government's Attacks on Pensions
Defend the Pensions We Have!
Fight for Pensions for All!
Alberta's public sector workers and their unions firmly
Redford government's clumsy attempt to derail the strong opposition
that has developed to its attacks on public sector pensions. Workers
and their collectives do not accept the use of force, dictate and
violence in place of good faith negotiations.
They demand a real say in matters that affect them, including wages,
working conditions and pensions.
The March 2 rally in downtown Edmonton firmly expressed
workers' opposition to the unilateral dictate of the Redford regime.
About 2,000 people participated in the rally, including several hundred
workers who came by buses organized by the unions from Calgary, Red
Deer and Ft. McMurray,
as well as by car from other cities and towns in Alberta.
Conditions for the rally could not have been much worse
bitter cold and severe wind chill factor. The organizers were well
prepared with warm up spaces, hot chocolate, heaters and everything
possible to ward off frostbite. The success of the rally under these
difficult conditions shows the determination
of the public sector workers not to submit to dictate and bullying.
Speakers from many public sector unions addressed the
rally. They included Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation
of Labour (AFL), Paul Moist, National President of the Canadian Union
of Public Employees (CUPE), Heather Smith, President of the United
Nurses of Alberta (UNA), Marle Roberts, President of CUPE Alberta,
Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of
Alberta (HSAA) and Guy Smith, President of the Alberta Union of
Provincial Employees, and Brian Mason, Leader of the Alberta New
In addition to those unions whose representatives spoke,
public sector unions represented included the Amalgamated Transit
Workers (ATU), Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of
Alberta (NASA), and Civil Service Union 52. Workers also came from many
other sectors and unions including UNIFOR, the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), The Canadian Union of Postal
Workers (CUPW) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
Workers again rallied on March 3 at 4:30 pm at the
opening of the
spring session of the Legislature. The Redford government has stated it
will introduce the retrogressive changes to public sector pensions
during the spring session. Despite the extreme cold which continued,
workers rallied once more and raised
their voices to demand that the government cease and desist from this
assault on the right to security in retirement.
The right to security in retirement belongs to all
rallies exemplified the resolve of working people to defend the
pensions they have and fight for pensions for all, including an
expansion of the Canada Pension Plan to become a genuine
defined-benefit pension plan for all at Canadian standards.
Organized resistance to the wrecking of public sector
continues. Workplace actions are being planned for March 20 and calls
and letters to MLAs continue. If the government introduces anti-pension
legislation during the spring session, which runs from March 3 to June
5, it will be met with determined
mass actions at the Legislature.
Step Up Resistance to Government
Alberta's Finance Minister Doug Horner in a
February 24 media barrage announced certain changes to the government's
attack on public sector pensions. Horner and the media falsely
presented the new version of the attack as a reversal of the
harmful changes earlier proposed by the government to the Local
Pension Plan and the Public Service Pension Plan. The Labour Coalition
on Pensions and the unions representing Alberta public sector workers
quickly exposed Horner's claim and provided careful analysis showing
very little has changed, least of all the government's refusal to
engage in good faith negotiations based
on facts not phony cries of pension doom and austerity.
February 24. (AFL)
Clearly, the government is feeling the heat from
the workers' opposition yet continues to declare arrogantly that it
will dictate whatever retrogressive changes to public sector pensions
it decides. To express their opposition to this stand, leaders of
public sector unions held a mock negotiating session outside Government
House on February 24. Inside, provincial Finance Minister Doug Horner
was conducting a behind-closed-doors secret session with
provincially-appointed pension board trustees informing them of the
latest changes the government would dictate to the workers and boards.
"They're taking the same bullying,
'my-way-or-the-highway' approach to pensions that they took with Bill
46 and wage settlements for public-sector workers," Alberta Federation
of Labour President Gil McGowan said. "It's an approach that poisons
relationships and leads to bad outcomes. It's also an approach
that breaks the law. These guys clearly have learned nothing from the
court injunction imposed on Bill 46."
The government even refused to reply to a letter
from the Labour Coalition on Pensions, a coalition of unions with more
150,000 members in the Local Authorities Pension Plan, asking for
formal negotiations, union leaders said. Instead, Horner keeps
presenting disinformation through the mass media to suggest
a crisis surrounds pensions and the government has been forced to
address an unfunded liability. This is to hide the fact that
this latest attack on public sector pensions and the right to
retirement security is part of the neo-liberal assault aimed at
dragging all Canadians down instead of raising everyone up to
defined-benefit pensions and guaranteed security in retirement at a
modern Canadian standard.
In the attack on existing pensions and against the
growing movement for pensions for all, the Redford government has
allied with the Harperites to block any pro-social change. The
neo-liberals in their mania to serve the rich and their global
monopolies in opposition to workers and the public interest have
any discussion towards defined-benefit pensions for all, especially
through modernizing and strengthening the Canada Pension Plan. Instead,
they have launched waves of attacks across the country on workers'
existing defined-benefit pension plans.
The Workers' Opposition upholds the principle that
the aim of a modern economy is to ensure the actual producers
participate actively in all aspects of economic and political life
according to their ability, and in exchange for their work and
conscious participation in political and economic affairs, they are
a Canadian-standard of living from birth to passing away.
Fight for Pensions
Imposed Pension Changes Miss the Mark
The public-sector pension plan changes proposed by
the Alberta government are unfair, ill informed and dictatorial. It's
unfair because it is gambling with the future of hundreds of thousands
of working Albertans while ignoring their views. The unions
representing front-line workers have made
frequent requests to meet and negotiate changes, but all requests have
been met with a deafening silence.
It's unfair because it means young workers today
and the workers of tomorrow are being treated differently and will have
to work longer for less return in their retirement.
It's also unfair because, while appearing to
address the concerns of some members of plans whose jobs are physically
demanding, it ignores the fact that there are many members who lift
patients throughout their work day and often without any assistance.
These include many HSAA professionals
who work in hospitals and in the community.
Finally, the plan is ill informed. Finance
Minister Doug Horner has ignored the views of the pension boards which
were already working to improve the plans, it has ignored the pleas
from the Auditor-General for real consultation with stakeholders, it
ignored the views of independent actuaries
who said the plans were sustainable without drastic changes, it has
ignored the concerns of employers over the ability to hire and retain
employees, and it refused to consult with the real experts, the
In his own statement, the minister says,
"important decisions about the plan's design and finances will be made
by those bearing the costs and risks" -- and yet he denies workers who
bear the cost of the plan any input into the proposed changes he has
This is exactly the kind of thinking that got the
government into so much trouble with a judge over Bill 46, the Public
Act. This government refuses to listen to
expert advice, it ignores the views and rights of workers and blindly
bulldozes through its ideological vision.
The government has revealed no evidence to justify
these proposed changes or show whether they will work. It simply
expects us to trust them. Unfortunately, their terrible track record
has left little room for trust.
Despite Government Changes,
Risk to Members' Pensions Continues
On September 16 ,
the Alberta Finance Minister Doug
Horner announced plans for a series of major changes to Alberta's
public service pensions, specifically including the Local Authorities
Pension Plan (LAPP), which is the main retirement savings plan for a
majority of United Nurses of Alberta
UNA members and members of other Alberta public
sector unions were gravely concerned and began a campaign of letter
writing, calls and visits to MLAs to express their concerns and urge
the government to change course.
On February 24, the government announced
several changes to its plan to change
Alberta's public service pension plans, including the LAPP.
Since then, the government has been running radio
ads suggesting that it has made significant concessions.
This has left many UNA members and members of
other unions with the impression the government has blinked, and the
unions have won their fight. Unfortunately, this is not so.
While the government has indeed blinked, there
continues to be a serious risk that the pension promise to you and your
co-workers will be violated in the future.
The government and some media reports have
characterized the revised government position as a reversal of previous
cuts. However, a careful look makes it clear that the government's
position hasn't changed very much.
In other words, the government still intends to
gut our pension plan, and we need to continue to oppose the
In his report, the Auditor General of Alberta had
this to say about contribution caps: "This is an example of a threshold
that could be used to achieve clarity. However, the department also
needs to ensure the plans determine how these contribution rate caps
will align with other plan attributes.
For example, the plans will need to determine how these caps align with
the objective of benefit security and investment policy."
"When a plan deficit occurs," the AG's report went
on, "only current and future employees can fund the employee share over
an extended period of time (e.g., 15 years). This can create inequities
between past, current and future employees. Practically speaking,
current and future employees
will not likely pay for benefits accruing to past employees if current
employees' contribution rates are significantly more than the value of
their own expected pension benefits. If current and future employees
will not support the plan, then the options are limited to: the
employer is left to assume more of the past
liability; retired employees will receive benefits that are
less than promised; or the plan risks insolvency. This means changing
the pension promise for
current or future employees is difficult while they bear the cost and
risks of benefits given to past employees."
It is not fair that one group of workers gets to
keep the "85 Factor" and get a better pension plan than another for the
same kind of public service. We all serve our communities, we all pay
into our pensions, and we should all have pensions that operate under
the same rules. This is an attempt
by the Redford Government to "divide and conquer" public sector workers.
As members of a profession dominated by women, UNA
members should be particularly concerned by this division. Professions
dominated by men have been singled out by the Redford Government for
more favourable treatment. A vital front-line health care profession
has been relegated to
second-class status. The Redford Government's war on pensions is a war
[The statement concludes with a call for UNA
members to participate in the planned events to resist the attacks on
pensions and to keep up the pressure on Conservative MLAs to ensure
retirement dignity for all public sector workers. For complete
statement click here
Statement on Public Sector Pension Changes
The Redford government is still gutting our
pension plan, and we need to continue to oppose their actions.
Here is a summary of the proposed changes as they
1. Early Retirement:
The Redford government is now
proposing to change pension benefits so early retirement is only
available to workers who are at least 60 years old and have a combined
age/years of service total of 90. This is slightly better than their
last proposal, as a few people may be able to retire early.
But it still means working longer and likely receiving a reduced
They are also making it harder to retire early
with a penalty. Currently, if you retire before getting to the 85
factor (age plus years of service equal 85), there is a penalty of 3
per cent for every year you retire early. In other words, if you retire
two years before hitting your 85 factor, your pension is reduced by
6 per cent. Under the Redford reforms, that penalty is increased to 5
per cent for every year of early retirement.
Under current pension rules, retirees
are guaranteed to have their pensions indexed to 60 per cent of
inflation. The government is refusing to continue that guarantee, now
characterizing cost of living increases as a "target" which will not
always be implemented. This means pensioners will see the value
of their pension rapidly decrease as they get older.
3. Cap on Contributions:
The Redford government is
still pushing for a cap on pension contributions. This could be very
harmful to the health of our pension plan, particularly if there is
another market crash. As long as this is on the table, no one's pension
is safe from future cuts.
4. Three-Tiers of
Pensions: The government is
proposing three different tiers of pension plans. One for pre-2016
benefits, one for post 2016, and one for firefighters, paramedics, and
corrections officers. It is not fair that one group of workers will get
a better pension plan than another. We all serve our communities,
we all pay into our pensions, and we should all have pensions that
operate under the same rules. This is an attempt by the Redford
government to "divide and conquer" public sector workers.
5. Joint Trusteeship:
CUPE has long supported a
pension plan where workers have an equal say with employers over the
management of the fund. Alberta is far behind other provinces in not
providing this method of managing public sector pensions.
The Redford government is now offering joint
trusteeship -- that's a good thing. But they are insisting that the
reforms mentioned above be implemented first, and that the trustees
cannot make changes to them. This gives employees a say over the
management of their pensions after Alison Redford has taken steps
to starve the plan of funds, and after she has put pensioners into
If Alison Redford is serious about joint
trusteeship -- she should implement it now, and employees and employers
can negotiate changes to the plan as equal partners.
The changes announced this week are not real
changes, and do not come about from discussions with employees and
However, the changes announced this week do mean
one thing -- we are making the Redford Government nervous. Conservative
MLAs do not like getting angry calls and emails from public sector
workers, and they are trying to appease us into silence. We have to
keep up the pressure.
We need to see you at the Churchill Square rally
[held March 2], and we need you to keep up the pressure on Conservative
MLAs to ensure retirement dignity for you and your co-workers.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Denounces
Unilateral Pension Reductions
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President
Guy Smith released the following statement on the pension changes
announced by the Alberta Finance Minister on Monday, February 24:
Today the Finance Minister announced that the
Progressive Conservative government will move ahead unilaterally with
pension reductions. Benefits have been significantly reduced, without
any real consultation. Governance reform is still unaddressed, even
though that was the single biggest
problem identified by the Auditor General.
One of our biggest concerns now is the same that
was raised by the Auditor General: that employees may leave the public
service because of these changes. If that happens, it will not only
harm the quality of services, but could create a run on the pension
plan, significantly increasing the unfunded
Minister Horner has communicated his decision that
payment of cost of living adjustments will now be conditional on the
performance of the plan, and that early retirement penalties have been
significantly increased, from 3 per year to 5 per year. The 85 factor
at age 55 has now been reduced
to a 90 factor at age 60, meaning employees will have to work longer to
receive an unreduced pension. These changes were not negotiated, and
will be imposed unilaterally.
The Progressive Conservatives also remain
committed to a contribution cap, although they have not made a final
decision on this issue. We intend to continue to pressure the Minister
on this issue, as it has the potential to reduce benefits not only for
future members but current pensioners.
Free the Cuban Five!
Public Meeting on the
Wednesday, March 5 --
Telus Centre, Room 217/219, University of Alberta
(corner of 87 Ave. and 111 St.)
Access to underground parking through west side of Timms Centre (87 Ave
and 112 St.);
Edmonton LRT goes to
University Station, just north and west of Telus
numerous city buses stop at Hub Mall, in front
of the LRT station.
Organized by: Edmonton
Cuba Solidarity Committee
For information: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cubaedmontonsc.wordpress.com,
Click image to enlarge.
All Out for International Women's Day!
Fight for the Rights
-- Potluck Celebration
Thursday, March 6
(1133 7th Ave SW) Calgary
Free parking is available at the Kerby Centre.
Please RSVP: Phone, (403)
email@example.com or on Facebook
Click image to enlarge.
Saturday, March 8
(112 Street and 82 Avenue).
A light meal and program including speakers from
labour and community organizations
will follow the march at the Luther
Centre (10014 81 Avenue).
For information: www.facebook.com/IWDEdmonton, firstname.lastname@example.org,
call Merryn at 780-910-1951.
Click image to enlarge.