July 15, 2014 - No. 67
Fraudulent Discourse on Pension Deficits
for Municipal Employees
front of Montreal City Hall
on June 17 against the bill on municipal sector pensions
• Fraudulent Discourse on Pension Deficits
for Municipal Employees - Claude Moreau
• North Shore Health Care Workers Embroiled in
Budget Management Not
Patient Treatment - Interview,
Nathalie Savard, President, Syndicat des
et intervenants de la santé du Nord-Est québécois
• Daycare Educators Hold One-Day Strike and
Demonstrate Across Quebec
Fraudulent Discourse on Pension Deficits
for Municipal Employees
The government, the monopoly-owned media and various
incessantly repeat that municipal employees' pension funds are in
crisis because of the size of their deficits which are the result of
city employers being too generous with municipal employees. It is
important to expose this fraudulent discourse.
The fraud starts with the fact that while the state does
retirement savings, it rushes to the rescue of the financial system as
it did during the 2008 financial crisis. At that time, tens of billions
of dollars from the pension funds were put in the hands of speculators
and financial fraudsters and have since
gone up in smoke without charge or conviction of the fraudsters. What
led to this?
financial managers were accustomed to high yields, which allowed them
to take contribution holidays or tax breaks, as was the case with
Quebec City’s surplus during the 1990s. In the early 2000s, when
interest rates and bond yields were low, they took more risks, putting
the funds they were responsible
for into the hands of speculators and continuously pushing back the
reimbursement of projected actuarial deficits. As the surplus money
generated by employer contributions was taken out of the fund, it could
not generate returns, thereby affecting the fund's ability to meet its
future obligations. When looked at over
the long term, the large banks experienced a slightly better
performance in actuarial estimates despite the years 2008 and 2011.
On the matter of the deficit fraud, currently there is
money in the
funds and cheques are issued to pay annuities, indexing, etc. There is
no deficit and no borrowing is required to pay the amounts due. It is
an actuarial calculation which foresees a future deficit relative to
future obligations. The cities have a problem.
According to the fraud, people are not dying fast enough. They are
living longer and the pension funds are too generous that the taxpayers
are able to afford. They do not mention the surplus from the pension
funds that municipal managers used to lower taxes in Quebec and to take
contribution holidays. Employees
have paid their part of the contract. As for retirees' ability to pay,
cutting their indexation is elder abuse.
Recently, the Caisse de dépôt et placement
du Québec, responsible
for managing Quebec's public sector pensions, received authorization to
increase the proportion of its investments abroad. This will allow it
to try to make more money in foreign financial markets. Are the
government and the Caisse trying to
do more of the same that led to the financial crisis of 2008, which
caused major losses for the pension funds? Is the purpose of the Caisse
to fulfil the people's need for financial security or are the people
supposed to adapt themselves to the schemes of the administration? In
this way, the retirement benefits for which
the people have paid are reduced as their money in the pension funds is
This raises the question of who owns these contributions
and to whom
does the surplus belong? Municipal managers could have disposed of
actuarial surpluses through contribution holidays or tax breaks, but
any deficits are their responsibility. Municipal employees reinvested
surpluses by purchasing additional
benefits; the surplus generated by their contributions thus remained in
the fund. Now that there are gaps to be filled on the part of the
municipalities, the state, in the form of the Quebec Liberal government
of Philippe Couilard has intervened with Bill 3. An Act to foster
the financial health and sustainability
of municipal defined benefit pension plans
is to brutally impose on active and retired workers a 50-50 scheme to
make up the pension deficits that were solely the responsibility of the
municipalities. Is this what the majority Liberal government of Premier
Couillard means when it talks of Quebec's economy
needing "structural changes"?
front of Montreal City Hall
on June 17 against the bill on municipal sector pensions
North Shore Health Care Workers Embroiled in
Budget Management Not Patient Treatment
TML: Please tell us a little about
the Northeast Quebecois Union for Health Professionals, SIISNEQ.
Nathalie Savard: Our union has about
who are nurses, nursing assistants and inhalotherapists. We represent
workers on the North Shore, in Northern Quebec and
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Our union is 60 years old and during that time
we have been a voice in health care
in these three regions.
TML: You recently surveyed your members
impact of health care cutbacks on their working conditions and services
to the public. In a recent press conference you said the impact is very
serious. Can you tell us more?
the last few years, specifically on the North Shore, our workers have
become increasingly sick. Mental health issues are the foremost problem
we face. It shows that problems such as the amount of overtime and
mandatory overtime and the increased workload are just getting worse.
Sick leave amongst our members is on the rise. Mental health problems
arise because our workers feel that they are not able to provide the
care required by the patients. They go home feeling that they have not
been able to attend to their patients properly, as they have been
The North Shore is experiencing a severe shortage of
nurses. We are
short 180 nurses, more than 50 nursing assistants and a dozen
inhalotherapists. It is urgent that something be done. If we are to get
out of this situation, we must find ways to attract people to the
health care professions.
There are only two Cegeps on the North Shore and that is
to fill our needs for health care positions. We do not have a
university. Students who want to get a university degree can do so
locally on a part-time basis by video conference. However, if they want
to study on a full-time basis they have
to leave the region and then the problem for us is how to convince them
to come back and work in the region.
TML: You say that being part of the
Northern Plan makes your situation even more complex. Why is this the
Northern Plan has a huge impact on us. We have to compete for workers
with the mining companies. They offer much better wages and working
conditions. We don't have what it takes to compete with that. With the
Northern Plan the cost of living has increased dramatically. Everything
is very expensive. The vacancy rate for apartments is extremely low and
those apartments that are available are very expensive. A nursing
assistant makes $30-35,000 a year, how can she afford to live in the
region? Our members who work with patients who receive psychiatric
treatment at home are having a hard
time to finding housing for them because the rents are so high and
these people live on welfare.
The Northern Plan has also brought with it a lot of
such as drugs, alcoholism and violence. In Fermont there is nothing to
do: workers are there without their families, there are a lot of social
problems. Many young people quit school to work in the mines because
the wages are high, but when
the mines slow down what will they do? They will have to go back to
school. Is there going to be assistance for the municipalities and
educational institutions so that the youth can be looked after?
Also the health care budgets in our region have not
the hoax that our population has not increased in numbers. But when the
"fly-in, fly-out" workers here get sick or injured, they use our
services. This is an added pressure on the system because we do not
receive more funding and it is the health
care workers who have to step in and make up the difference of this
extra burden of work.
All these problems have to be looked at thoroughly. In
order to deal
with one problem we have to deal with many aspects of society.
TML: What do you think of the Quebec
argument that public services have to be run in a more effective and
NS: This is a way of asking us to do
more with less.
It has been proven that the more you cut services the more you attack
their quality. Our people are very productive and they care about their
patients. They are doing everything they can so that the quality of the
public services does not
fall in spite of the cutbacks and that is how they become sick. There
is no room for any more cutbacks. Workers are stretched to the maximum.
When we are told that we have to become more efficient
productive, it means for example that we have to follow the "lean"
method, the Toyota method. We are to give that many minutes for a visit
to a patient, see that many patients a day, schedule that much time for
a surgery, etc. It does not take into
account the complexity of the care -- sometimes a visit to a patient
can take 10 minutes, sometimes 45. Our workers feel more and more that
they are being asked to manage budgets rather than treat patients. That
is a major factor contributing to the deterioration of workers' health.
TML: How do you deal with all these
main thing is that all the regional players have to sit and talk based
on the common concern of providing quality care to the people. This
means local MNAs, employers, regional health authorities, unions. The
MNAs have to realize that they have been elected to serve the needs
of the people of the region. We have to make sure that employers do not
work in isolation and think that they will manage their situation on
their own. It is all together that we can solve these problems.
Our union has been active in this region for the last 60
have made many proposals that are rational and practical and we are
still making proposals. For example, there should be more training of
nurses, nursing assistants and inhalotherapists so that they are
authorized to do more medical procedures.
Soon there are going to be negotiations in the public sector. We want
to work out demands that take into account the regional disparities in
terms of health care conditions so that we can offer the quality of
care that is needed and attract and keep people in the health care
system on the North Shore. One problem
we have in the region is the long distances people have to travel to
health care facilities. Sometimes they have to go by plane. It costs
more money here than in other regions to provide health care but that
is the nature of the beast. We pay our taxes like everybody else, we
have to be able to provide the same quality
of care as everywhere else in Quebec.
Daycare Educators Hold One-Day Strike and Demonstrate
On July 7, the 13,600 home daycare workers affiliated
Federation of Early Childhood Professionals of Quebec (FIPEQ-CSQ) held
a one-day strike and demonstrated across Quebec with their allies to
protest the slow pace of negotiations for a second collective
agreement. These early childhood educators
have been in negotiations since October 15, 2013 and they submitted
their monetary demands on June 13. Discussions on priority issues,
including the ineffectiveness of the current system of work relations,
their professional autonomy, respect for privacy and fair and equitable
compensation for their work, are still
"We, the 13,600 home daycare workers affiliated with the
are more determined than ever and we are determined to force the
Liberal government to move forward with negotiations. It is time to
discuss the real issues," said Kathleen Courville, president of the
public service is essential and allows thousands of women to enter the
labour market. Improving the working conditions of home daycare workers
across Quebec also directly improves services for young children. These
services must be looked at as an essential investment in Quebec
society," said the president
of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), Louise Chabot.
"The major issue blocking the negotiations at this time
working relationship between the coordinating offices and child care,"
said Courville. The coordinating offices are responsible for daycare
services in the regions and are in charge of the distribution of
enrolment and government grants. They also ensure
compliance on the part of the premises. One of the FIPEQ's main demands
is to harmonize the practices of these offices, some of which make
decisions that exceed their authority according to some educators. The
FIPEQ would like "a dispute resolution process in order to challenge
the decisions made by the coordinating
offices that are not justified."
daycare workers are also demanding recognition of their actual work
hours. They work on average 50 hours per week and are paid for 35 hours.
Rather than respond to their legitimate demands, the
of Families, Francine Charbonneau, is playing the same old card that
workers are holding the people and families hostage. She also claims
the negotiations are complex because the workers are "self-employed"
yet want to be recognized as employees"
while having decision-making power. "It is not simple. But our desire
is to move forward and for parents to not have to seek child care
spaces," she said.
Courville clarified the situation, "Contrary to
what is implied by the ministry, we are currently experiencing a block
at the bargaining table and there is a categorical refusal by the
ministry to consider the negotiations' real issues. We therefore ask
Minister Charbonneau to give clear mandates
to her representatives to break the deadlock experienced at the table
concerning, among other things, the role of coordinating offices and
especially the collective agreement and the recognition of our work.
"We are stunned to see Minister Charbonneau's ignorance
in the case
of early childhood education and what is really happening at the
bargaining table. We are even more appalled by her ignorance of the
reality on the ground and the real work carried out by home daycare
workers on a daily basis. In our opinion,
it is unacceptable to say that home daycare workers have no training in
pedagogy to apply and, what is more, that they work only 35 hours a
week," she added.
Other Pressure Tactics Considered
During the one-day
strike, the FIPEQ-CSQ home daycare workers held an Extraordinary
General Assembly and voted 92 per cent in favour of an additional
strike mandate of three full days. These three days, like the one
already held, will be used at the appropriate
time, depending on the progress of discussions at the bargaining table.
A negotiation day was also held July 9 between the FIPEQ-CSQ and the
Ministry of Families.
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