22, 2014 - No. 46
Send a Message to the
No Means No! Hands
off Our Pensions
Defend the Pensions We Have --
Pensions for All!
Withdraw Bills 9 and 10 Now!
rally at the Alberta Legislature on opening day to oppose attacks on
Alberta Government's Bill 9, the Public
and Bill 10, the Employment
Pension (Private Sector) Plans Amendment Act
April 22 -- 11:00 a.m. - 1:00
Misericordia Hospital, 16940 87 Ave.
All welcome -- lunch will be provided on the line
by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local
Message to the Alberta Government
No Means No! Hands off
• No! to Attacks on Public
and Private Sector Pensions
• Bill 10 Assaults the Right
of Private Sector Workers to Defined Benefit Pension Plans -
• How the PCs Plan to
Deprive Workers of Their Pensions One Step at a Time
• Wildrose Party Piles on
Pressure Against Public Sector Workers and Their Pensions
Education Is a
Right! Strengthen Public Education for All!
Resist the Inroads in Education of Private Monopoly Interests!
• What Is Behind Alberta's Debate
on Math Instruction? - Kevan Hunter
• Public Forum on Planned
Cuts to Postal Services
• April 28 Day of Mourning for Workers Injured
or Killed on the Job
Send a Message to the Alberta Government
No Means No! Hands Off Our Pensions!
No! to Attacks
on Public and Private Sector Pensions
The Alberta PCs have introduced two bills
attacking the right to security in retirement. Bill 9, the Public
Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014 and Bill 10, the Employment
given first reading on April
16 and second reading on April 17.
Workers are demanding that the government withdraw
Bills 9 and 10 and stop its attacks on pensions. A noon-hour rally will
take place at the Misericordia Hospital on Tuesday April 22 from 11
a.m. to 1 p.m. hosted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local
2111. Workers from all
the public sector unions and their allies are joining in.
The Labour Coalition on Pensions has given the
call to come to the Legislature starting at 3 pm on Wednesday, April
23. Workers and their allies will fill the galleries as debate begins
on Bill 9. Everyone is encouraged also to sign up at www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca
to receive an
email alert about future actions. The Labour Coalition is calling on
everyone to contact their MLAs once again and urge them to vote against
the bill. MLAs are receiving a clear message that every MLA who votes
for the legislation will be held to account. The Legislature will be
sitting from April
22-24, adjourned for a constituency week and then sitting again
beginning on May 5.
Bill 9 Assaults the Right of Public Sector Workers
to Security in Retirement
Bill 9 gives the government executive arbitrary
powers to limit unilaterally the contributions to the pension plans.
Such a cabinet decree could force the pension board to reduce benefits
for active and retired
workers. Also, the Finance Minister no longer requires consent of the
pension boards for changes to benefits accrued after 2016 and can
arbitrarily dictate any changes.
The pension boards, which are comprised of
employer and employee representatives, have been stripped of their
authority. The little control exercised by workers on the boards
through their union representatives has been replaced by arbitrary
dictate. This would permit the Minister to make
the changes, which have already been announced, including forcing
workers to work longer before retiring, but also any other changes to
weaken security in retirement. The Minister is not limited to the
changes that can be dictated for benefits accrued after 2016. The new
bill also contains a section
exempting the government from any liability for the results of its
Bill 10 Assaults the Right of Private Sector Workers
to Security in Retirement
Bill 10, Employment Pension (Private
Sector) Plans Amendment Act, 2014 permits employers to
retroactively convert defined benefit pension plans to target
pension plans, a type of defined contribution pension plan. This change
with defined benefit plans in the private sector of security in
retirement. The government claims that this change must be approved by
the plan members while virtually acknowledging that employers will use
threats to crater their pension plans entirely if workers do not agree
with the extortion.
The introduction of Bills 9 and 10 leaves no doubt
that this is an assault on the right of all workers to security in
retirement. The government is continuing to use force and violence to
impose its dictate, having criminalized every workplace action where
the workers could express their collective No!
The Workers' Opposition rejects the disinformation
about a tsunami of seniors who are portrayed as an unsustainable burden
on the next generation, and who must be left to fend for themselves.
Workers are producers of the wealth. In this economic system, workers
exchange their capacity to
work for a defined claim on the value the working class produces within
the socialized economy. The claim of workers on the value they produce
extends throughout their lifecycle of childhood, maturity and
retirement. Security in retirement is a right, not an earned benefit
that can later be "negotiated"
away through extortion or any other method.
Alberta's public sector workers have refused to
cave under the bogus pressure that their pensions somehow represent a
burden on the economy. With the introduction of Bill 10, which gives
employers a legal "right" to destroy defined benefit plans, the
government has left no doubt that it wants
to crater everyone's defined-benefit pensions and force retirees to
risk a life in poverty and insecurity in their senior years. It must
TML calls on all workers,
active and retired to come out and take a stand against Bills 9 and 10.
A Canadian standard pension and security in retirement is the right of
The human-centred program guarantees the rights of
all, which includes defined benefits for seniors and the highest
quality public seniors' care.
We Have! Fight for Pensions
All Out to Say No! to Bills
9 and 10!
Bill 10 Assaults the Right of Private
Sector Workers to Defined Benefit Pension Plans
On April 16, the Alberta PC government
gave first reading to Bill 10, the Employment Pension
(Private Sector) Plans Amendment Act, 2014. The bill was
given second reading on April 17. The "amendment" being put forward
will allow employers to retroactively convert accrued
defined benefit pension plans in the private sector into target pension
In a defined benefit plan, retirees
receive a pension according to the formula established in the plan so
long as the enterprise does not file for bankruptcy. A target pension
plan is yet another form of a defined-contribution savings plan where
the pension benefit is not guaranteed. The only
guarantee for pensioners is that employers can trample on their rights.
The proposed legislation makes it legal
for employers to refuse to honour their obligations to retired workers
without even going through the fraud of seeking bankruptcy protection
under the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act (CCAA).
With Bill 10, retired workers
who have defined benefit pensions face increased insecurity and the
possibility of poverty in retirement.
The legislation amends the Employment
Pension Plans Act, which was quietly passed in the Legislature in
2012 with the support of all parties. The Act
received Royal Assent on December 10, 2012, but cabinet never exercised
its arbitrary power to decide when the
law is proclaimed and the Act never became law.
The government is now introducing amendments to the law, which fully
reveal its purpose to allow employers to wreck pension plans and deny
workers their right to security in retirement.
The original Act
allowed all pension plans to use target benefit rules for benefits
earned in the future. Regulations were then developed but not enacted
to allow collectively bargained plans retroactively to convert their
defined benefits to target benefits. Bill 10 amends the legislation
to allow employers to convert all defined benefits into target
benefits. Every private sector pension in Alberta can now be destroyed
and converted into a target plan in which workers are made the target
of the greed of the monopolies who want to seize more and more of the
wealth produced by
the working class.
The Finance Minister stated the Act
will require plan members to be consulted and to approve any changes
before a conversion can take place. To speak of "approval" is pure
disinformation. Why would workers agree to having secure pensions with
guaranteed benefits converted
to savings plans where the benefits are merely a target. It is
ridiculous. The reality is that the global monopolies are using
lockouts, blackmail and every conceivable tactic to force such
Further, by creating two-tier
arrangements where the newly hired younger generation does not have
defined benefit pension plans, they are setting the stage to force such
"agreements" by splitting the workforce. Finance Minister Doug Horner
made this quite clear
when he stated in the Legislature, "Employers we've
met with have been quite frank, Mr. Speaker. They need more flexibility
to deal with the skyrocketing costs of the plans, or they may stop
offering them altogether."
Who would be consulted, i.e., active or retired
workers, or even whether a majority must agree is not stated. Little
doubt exists that the agreement of retired workers will not be
required. The rules governing who is required to approve a change will
not be in the legislation, but in regulations developed
after the fact, which can be changed by executive decree at any time.
In introducing the amendments, Minister Horner left no
doubt that the public authority has been
completely taken over by private monopoly interests. He had not a
single word to say about the rights of workers to security in
retirement; a right the government obviously does not
recognize. Employers want these changes, Horner told the Legislature,
so here they are.
"For a number of years employers have
been bringing forward concerns regarding the sustainability of their
defined benefit plans," Horner said. "These employers have expressed a
lot of interest in the target benefits proposal. In response to the
interest expressed by employers, a policy change
is required to permit the retroactive conversion. This proposed
amendment reflects that policy change."
Like a broken record, Horner
shouts once more that the sky is falling, pension plan costs are
skyrocketing, and employers are "burdened" with unfunded liabilities.
Horner paints a picture of imminent collapse of pension plans, despite
the fact that pension plans in Canada are now
considered at the healthiest level in 12 years and most are now
approaching or are at fully-funded status.
The government does not speak as a public
authority which has a social responsibility to its citizens and
residents, but as the mouthpiece of the monopolies. The global energy
monopolies, which are closely linked with the banks and other huge
corporations, are making enormous profits from
the resources that belong to the people of Alberta and Canada and the
From October to December 2013 (third
quarter), Canadian corporations earned $77.0 billion in operating
profits. This was up 1.5 per cent from the previous quarter, and
profits rose 2.6 per cent from July to September, 2013. Third quarter
profits were up 4.3 per cent from the third quarter
of 2012, rising 15.4 per cent in the financial sector. A government
that enacts legislation allowing the owners of capital, who grow ever
richer on the backs of the working people, to steal the pensions of
active and retired workers is not fit to govern.
TML denounces the
PCs' anti-worker legislation. This retrogressive Act
fully reveals that the government is bent on depriving all working
people the right to dignity and security in retirement. A Canadian
standard pension and security in retirement is the right
of every Canadian! Defend the pensions we have and fight for pensions
1. Pension plans studies show dramatic
increases in the funding status of both public and private pension
plans. For example, the Mercer Pension Health Index, which tracks the
funded status of a hypothetical defined benefit pension plan, stood at
106 per cent on December
31, 2013 up from 82 per cent at the start of the year and at its
highest level since June 2001. See "Funding Status of
Pensions Plans in
2013," TML Daily, February
25, 2014 - No. 19.
How the PCs Plan to Deprive Workers of
Their Pensions One Step at a Time
The original Bill 10, the Employment
Pension Plans Act, was passed in record time in the Legislature in
2012 with only five speakers. The government presented
the bill as a major overhaul of pension legislation, which amongst
other things would "control costs." There was not
a single mention of the legislation in the monopoly-controlled media.
Reporting on the proceedings in the Legislature, TML
pointed out at the time,
"Everyone lauded the bill for being timely, necessary and a first step.
But a first step to exactly what? On this point, the 'debate' became
completely incoherent. Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson applauded
the bill as a first step towards an assault on defined benefit pensions
in general and public sector pensions in particular. His wild rant
blamed defined benefit pensions for all the ills in the world and for
being the cause of economic crisis, and the bankruptcy of monopolies
and entire countries.
He left no doubt as to where Wildrose is going and specifically
targeted Alberta teachers whom he blamed for the deficit.
Liberal MLAs speaking to the bill applauded it as a first step to
encouraging more employers to establish pension plans, while pointing
out that most workers
in Alberta have no pension plan of any kind and that this situation is
unacceptable. The PC MLAs kept quiet, as their only role in this was to
know when to say 'aye.'"
commented, "The monopolies are not clamouring to establish pension
plans, held back only by archaic legislation. They are intent on
wrecking defined pension plans and putting in place various forms of
savings plans, which provide capital to the financial oligarchy
while providing no guaranteed pension in retirement. And this is what
the new arrangements in Bill 10 are intended to do. It is part of the
austerity agenda to pay the rich. Global monopolies and the governments
that serve them consider that they can break previous arrangements with
class with impunity. This is a time not to sing the praises of the
government for introducing this legislation but to defend the rights of
all, resist the attack on defined-benefit pensions and fight for
arrangements that favour public right and interests."
The regulations and amended legislation
confirm how the government acts by stealth to wreck pensions one step
at a time, and that the original Bill 10 was intended to set the stage
for a massive assault on defined benefit pensions in both the private
and public sectors. The attack on private
sector defined benefit plans is now fully underway in the form of
the "amended Bill 10," which permits security in retirement to be
negotiated or rather extorted away.
Both the PCs and Wildrose speak of active
and retired workers as costs. How can workers be a cost? They are the
producers and reproducers of value. Under capitalism, workers exchange
their capacity to work for a defined claim on the value they produce
within the socialized economy. This
claim is for security throughout their lifecycle of childhood, maturity
Security in retirement is a right, not an
earned benefit that can later be "negotiated" away. Workers are not a
cost whether active, in childhood or retired. The human-centred program
guarantees the rights of all, which includes defined benefits for
seniors and the highest quality public seniors'
1. Anderson's speech can be
found in Hansard --
Wildrose Party Piles on Pressure Against
Public Sector Workers and Their Pensions
Instead of opposing the PCs'
retrogressive anti-pension Bill 9, the Public Sector Pension
Plans Amendment Act, Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson
said, "We feel some reforms to the current system may be needed to
ensure the long term sustainability of public pensions." He made
it clear that the Wildrose reforms would not strengthen the right of
workers to security in retirement but would be aimed at splitting young
and old public sector workers so that little by little defined benefit
pensions would be eliminated. Andersonf said, "Any substantial changes
should only be applied
to workers who have yet to be hired, rather than those already employed
In the 2012 election, Wildrose called for
an end to defined benefit pensions for all newly hired public sector
workers. In classic fashion, the means to attack the rights of all is
to break the solidarity across generations, deny society's
responsibility to the youth entering the workforce and weaken
their connection with older workers.
Wildrose is in effect calling for two
distinct pension plans, one without defined benefits for new hires and
one with defined benefits for current and retired workers. The new
plan without defined benefits would eventually overwhelm the existing
The current defined benefit plans would
have no new entrants. As the number of new active workers without
defined benefits compared to retired workers continues to decline, the
defined benefit plans would be considered unsustainable. Hysteria about
their "un-sustainability" would rise to
a crisis level; the stage would be set to declare that all defined
benefit plans must be cratered. With the Wildrose and PCs,
pension is at risk and the right to security in retirement denied. They
are both unfit
Education Is a
Right! Strengthen Public Education for All!
Resist the Inroads in Education of Private Monopoly Interests!
What Is Behind Alberta's Debate on Math
A debate has been created over curriculum
and instruction in Alberta schools. In December of 2013, the results of
the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of
student achievement in mathematics were released. The results indicate
the position of Canadian students in
international rankings of math skills has dropped, with the fall
slightly more pronounced in Alberta. The PISA tests are conducted by
the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Canadian students ranked thirteenth among
OECD member countries. If Alberta were compared to other countries in
the OECD, it would be in eleventh place, down from eighth place in
2009. This is a two per cent drop in the province's raw score over the
last three years. John Manley, head
of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) declared this to be
a national emergency. The CCCE includes the heads of the 150 largest
monopolies in Canada and represents the narrow demands of those
monopolies, which look at education as an untapped market, ripe for
and the sale of educational technology and services for private profit.
It is not an organization with the best interests of students at heart.
Parents, teachers, and all of society are
concerned not just about these results but with what is happening to
education generally. Within the context of cuts to education funding,
larger classes and other serious concerns, what is the significance of
these results? What should be done about these
issues is a valid question.
But why all the hyperbole and rhetoric of
crisis surrounding these results? Why is the high level of teacher
burnout due to unsustainable workloads, which causes wonderfully
teachers to leave the profession, not also considered a crisis?
The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA)
points out forcefully: in the last five years, Alberta's student
population has increased by 41,000 students while the number of
teaching positions has increased by only 100. The population of Alberta
is set to continue to grow. Why does John Manley not
consider the trend of larger class sizes caused by government
underfunding to be a crisis? Why do the monopolies refuse to discuss
the role of poverty in education? Or do they believe that whether a
child comes to school hungry or not has no bearing on their test
results? The answer is precisely
because a hidden agenda exists to wreck public education, privatize it
and not affirm the right to education in a forthright and objective
Instead of seriously discussing the
negative factors arising in part from underfunding and the encroachment
on education by private interests, the monopoly media promote
diversions such as the issue of so-called "discovery" approaches in
mathematics, or "inquiry learning." Outrageous claims
are made, for example, that teachers are not allowed to teach children
the multiplication tables and that students are left to "discover"
multiplication on their own. The Wildrose Party in particular has
seized on the issue, with Education Critic Bruce McAllister championing
the cause of parents who
believe we should go "back to the basics" in education. Considering
that the Wildrose Party agenda of continued austerity and cuts to
public services will only further impoverish society and weaken the
public education system, the question arises as to the aim of this
hyperbole and hysteria. Is a
hidden agenda to privatize public education not at play here as well?
Education Minister Jeff Johnson presents
himself as the voice of reason, arguing for a "balanced approach" while
refusing to be forthcoming about the government's own designs to
privatize education. At the same time as the ratio of students to
teachers continues to increase, what impacts will
Alberta Education's curriculum redesign have on public education?
Pressure for privatization comes from the
oil and gas monopolies as well as education technology monopolies such
as Apple, Microsoft and SMART Technology, which demand to be
"stakeholders" in curriculum development and education generally. The
private monopolies demand an expanded
role to treat education as a market and source of private profit. They
are scheming to siphon away into their own private pockets more and
more public funds both within a public setting and by setting up
specific private institutions, which receive public funds but charge
parents directly as well.
Teachers have been and will continue to
discuss important questions of teaching methods and how education
should be delivered to meet the needs of the people and the general
interests of society. What is the modern definition of education? What
is the modern relation between students and
teachers and their roles, including their conscious participation in
setting the agenda for the school year? What skills need to be
practiced through repetition until they become automatic? How can
inquiry be used to make school more relevant and encourage
understanding beyond just rote memorization.
The perspective of parents is important as well, as parents see another
side of the student.
A serious discussion has to take place in
a context where the social, economic, and political factors such as the
question of funding for education and the right to education for all
are recognized. Teachers, with the involvement of students, parents and
the society in general, will continue to update
their teaching methods, using the latest in educational research and
developments. They need the resources such as time within the school
day to do so, and they need respect as professionals to use their
professional judgement, rather than having governments, monopolies and
school boards dictating
how they should teach.
Teachers, parents, students and all
concerned with the future of society must establish their own
independent agenda for discussion. They must not permit those forces
who are motivated by private profit to set a narrow aim and agenda for
students, teachers and society.
Public Forum on Planned Cuts
Saturday, May 3 -- 1:00- 4:00 pm
Association, 3133-30 Ave.
On May 3 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at
the Dover Community Association (3133-30 Ave. S.E., Calgary), the
Canadian Union of Postal Workers will host a public forum to hear from
Albertans who will be affected by changes to postal service. The public
forum comes in the wake of the Canada
Post announcement that door-to-door delivery will stop and the price of
stamps will jump.
"Albertans -- and all Canadians -- need to
be consulted on these changes. The CEO of Canada Post won't listen to
Canadians... but we will, CUPW Calgary President Anna Beale said.
"Removing door-to-door delivery deeply affects the lives of many
Albertans, particularly seniors and those with
mobility issues. They aren't serving Canadians by imposing these