February 8, 2021 - No. 3

Fight to Take Over Worker Pension Funds Intensifies

Hands Off Workers' Pensions!

Kenney Government Wants Control of Pension Funds to Pay the Rich
Alberta Unions Respond to Arrogant Government Decree to Seize Control of Public Sector Pension Funds

Canada Post Mississauga Plant
Postal Worker Dies as Canada Post Fails to Control COVID-19 Outbreak

Demands for Action in Defence of Rail Workers' Safety
Investigation Launched into 2019 Derailment

Fight to Take Over Worker Pension Funds Intensifies

Hands Off Workers' Pensions!

The Alberta government has moved to seize control of all public-sector pension plans in the province. The target is the pensions of more than 450,000 active and retired workers. Workers in all sectors are denouncing this brazen government move to control their pensions. 

The ministerial orders give veto power over public-sector pension investment decisions to a crown corporation called AIMCo. This provincial government investment company already controls $119 billion in funds comprised of Alberta government funds, pensions and the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) Accident Fund. AIMCo's CEO is appointed by, answers to, and must take direction from the Alberta Minister of Finance.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews signed ministerial orders on December 23, imposing government controlled "investment management agreements" (IMAs) on public sector pension funds. Toews informed the pension funds of the unilateral dictate on January 4. The ministerial decrees follow the 2019 omnibus Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act. Bill 22 requires all public sector pensions to use AIMCo as sole investment manager. The dictate includes the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, which has managed its own fund since inception.

The act orders pension plan boards to negotiate agreements with AIMCo regarding governance. No pension board has yet been able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement despite what are termed "intensive negotiations." Instead the government has once again used its police powers and issued ministerial orders to dictate terms to the pension boards, which even though the pension money they control belongs to workers alone as an earned benefit, are comprised of representatives of both employees and employers.

The Ministerial Orders give AIMCo authority to veto any decisions of the pension boards if, in the sole opinion of AIMCo, such decisions would threaten AIMCO's "economies of scale or operational efficiencies." Such a broad statement could mean anything but emphasizes that according to the Alberta government, workers' pension funds do not belong to workers but are a source of money for the government to pay the rich in one way or another. No appeal or arbitration of the veto is allowed.

The orders directly contradict statements made by the government during debate of the omnibus Bill 22 in 2019. The government said at the time that control of how pension funds are invested will remain with the pension boards. Responding to the opposition to Bill 22 from the Alberta Teachers Association, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said on November 7, 2019, "The Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund Board (ATRF) will remain in control of determining how the pension funds are invested at a strategic level as well as retaining ownership of the plan's assets. That is, AIMCo will invest according to the policies set by the ATRF board."

The arbitrary actions of Bill 22 and the ministerial decrees amount to gross interference in the financial affairs of the working class. The pension funds of workers belong to them and they should have control and final say as to how their social wealth is invested and the institutional forms they need to exercise effective control over their money.

Bill 22 and subsequent decrees amount to theft of social wealth that does not belong to the government and is tantamount to telling workers how they should spend their money. Pensions represent social wealth the working class reproduces through their work and belongs to them just as much as the wages they receive at the time of working. The government and financial oligarchy have no right to seize control of workers' social wealth that belongs to them by right and over which they must exercise control.

The issue of how workers' pension funds should be invested and distributed is for workers themselves to decide and work out through their own organizations without government interference. Active and retired workers have broadly responded to the Alberta government's anti-people bill and decree saying Hands Off Workers' Pensions! Whose Pensions? Our Pensions! Who Decides! We Decide!

Haut de page

Kenney Government Wants Control
of Pension Funds to Pay the Rich

The government is racking up big deficits borrowing money from the financial oligarchy for its pay-the-rich schemes to guarantee the profits of the oil oligarchs and other uses. At the same time, the government says it has "no money" for health care, education and to look after Albertans. It has also now seized total control over how workers' pension funds are invested to finance its pay-the-rich schemes.

Outrage is growing over the UCP government scandal of handing over $6.5 billion of public funds to the owners of TC Energy as an equity stake and loan guarantees to build the Keystone XL pipeline south to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The imminent demise of that venture was hardly a secret when the billions in public money were handed over as a brazen gift to the rich, with U.S. President Biden now confirming its collapse.

The Kenney government has used both legislation and most recently ministerial orders to seize control of public sector pension funds to give even greater control of workers' pooled social wealth to the global oligarchs to use what belongs to the working class by right in yet more "investment strategies" to pay the rich.

Alberta public sector workers are not alone in confronting this problem of control over their pension money. How and where these pension funds are invested is a big issue in Canada and elsewhere. Pension funds are huge pools of social wealth that the working class has claimed through its work and belongs to workers by right. However the global oligarchs, using financial companies, in most cases exercise control and the power of decision over workers' pensions and saved money. These funds end up the hands of the global oligarchs to serve their narrow private interests all over the world in ways that favour them and not the people. Workers are demanding an end to this abuse of their money.

Recently, Canadians have witnessed the devastating consequences of pension investments in for-profit long-term care homes such as Revera Inc. Long-term care homes including Revera have experienced an extremely high rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths and have been accused of diverting the money they receive from governments and others into profits rather than the well-being of the seniors in their care. PSP Investments, which controls the public sector pension funds of federal workers, is the investment company that owns Revera.

Workers' pension funds are being broadly used against the interests of the working class and nation-building such as to strengthen private ownership of medical labs and other health care facilities and production, public education and infrastructure. Ironically, workers and their allies are fighting for public ownership and human-centred control of all sectors of the health care system while their pension funds are being used to defeat their just cause. This must stop! Workers themselves through their independent collectives have the right to decide how their pension funds are invested to ensure this is done in ways that directly benefit nation-building, the working class and society.

The fight over control of workers' pension funds is an important part of the struggle for a new direction for the economy, to stop paying the rich and increase investments in social programs. This forms part of the struggle for democratic renewal to empower working people and stay the hand of governments from issuing decrees that favour the global oligarchy.

Haut de page

Alberta Unions Respond to Arrogant
Government Decree to Seize Control of
Public Sector Pension Funds

Speaking at a news conference held January 14, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said the government decrees to seize control of all public sector pension plans is unprecedented, outrageous and brazen.[1] AFL President McGowan said Bill 22 and the subsequent decree on December 23, 2020 amount to theft of pension funds that belong to working people and not to the government. Union leaders said the Ministerial Order from Finance Minister Travis Toews is designed to finish the work that the government started in the fall of 2019 with the passage of omnibus Bill 22.

President McGowan said the ministerial orders will be challenged in the courts, as well as in a broad public campaign to demand Hands Off Our Pensions! and the immediate rescinding of the anti-worker ministerial orders and decree.

Other unions point out that Premier Kenney is not only going after the public sector pension funds. He is floating the idea of taking Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan and establishing a separate provincial plan where he can control pension funds to pay the rich with whom he is connected. This fight forms part of the struggle of competing private interests for control of workers' pension and other funds.

Workers cannot afford to watch this fight amongst the rich over their money proceed without immediate and stern intervention. Workers pension funds are theirs to control and decide on where they are invested and how they are distributed. Pension funds form part of the claim workers make in return for the sale of their capacity to work to those who own and control the economy. Workers have the right to control and decide how they spend their wages and any benefits, such as pensions, they may receive from the sale of their capacity to work.

The issue of how workers' pension funds should be invested and distributed is for workers themselves to decide and work out through their own organizations without government interference. Alberta public sector workers forced the government to retreat from its schemes to wreck their defined benefit pensions in 2013, and continue to stand firm that pensions belong to the workers and that workers themselves must be in control so that their pension funds are invested in human-centred ways. Active and retired workers have broadly responded to the Kenney government’s anti-worker actions with slogans to affirm their right to decide: Hands Off Workers' Pensions! Whose Pensions? Our Pensions! Who Decides! We Decide!


1. Also present at the January 14 news conference of trade unions to denounce the Kenney government's anti-worker decree:

Guy Smith, President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
Mike Parker, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)
Rory Gill, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Division (CUPE)

The Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling also issued a statement demanding that the Kenney orders to seize control of public sector pensions be rescinded.

Haut de page

Canada Post Mississauga Plant

Postal Worker Dies as Canada Post Fails
to Control COVID-19 Outbreak

January 28, 2021. Workers at Canada Post facilities in Scarborough organized a moment of silence in honour of postal worker Godfrey Yeung who died from COVID-19.

Postal workers in Toronto and across the country are mourning the death of Godfrey Yeung, a night shift worker at the Gateway plant in Mississauga.[1] He passed away on January 26 as he was self-isolating at home less than a week after a positive COVID-19 test on January 19.

Qaiser Maroof, the president of the Toronto local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, calls it a "sad day for Postal Workers" and an "unnecessary loss of life." He went on to say, "This tragedy underscores why we have been insisting to the governments that the postal workers are indeed frontline workers. When will the government ensure that our members are treated like frontline workers? When will our health and safety be treated with high importance?"

Workers Forum condemns the flagrant disregard for workers' safety by Canada Post. Postal workers tell us that since the beginning of the pandemic it has been a constant battle to have management take worker safety seriously. There have been outbreaks at multiple Canada Post sorting stations. The union has taken the initiative to take members out of production and assigned them to do health and safety monitoring, encouraging workers to wear PPE and to keep adequately distanced.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region has started an investigation into the tragic event at the Gateway facility. Throughout January there was an alarming increase in COVID-19 infections there. As of January 30, the most recent information available, 273 workers had tested positive since the beginning of the month and dozens more cases were coming to light each day. On January 22 Peel Public Health officials directed Canada Post to close down the afternoon shift (Shift #3) and over 300 workers were advised to self-isolate at home for 14 days. In addition, all day shift workers (Shift #2) were tested at an onsite clinic that has been set up. The public health authorities directed that mandatory testing at the Gateway facility be ramped up and that employees who had already been tested must be assessed again. Canada Post implemented the following measures:

- full sanitization of the plant;

- enhanced measures to promote physical distancing;

- proper and sufficient personal protective equipment will be available; and

- increased safety inspections and information to be provided to the union.

All the measures that Canada Post is committing to implement now in the Gateway plant postal workers have been fighting for all along.

Since the beginning of the pandemic postal workers have continued to process and deliver mail and parcels and provide services at retail counters. In carrying out this work, they have not only risked infection but have also fought tooth and nail across the country to ensure that health and safety rights at each workplace are respected.

There are countless examples of workers having to invoke the right to refuse unsafe work because the corporation has refused to provide proper personal protective equipment, maintain proper cleaning in plants and depots, ensure proper physical distancing and so on. Workers have been denied leaves needed to protect themselves and their families -- even to be tested if they are not well. They are disciplined for coming to work if they subsequently prove to be infected. Workers are also threatened with discipline for social media posts that are critical of the Corporation. Parcel handling is at record levels due to the increase in online shopping. Canada Post reports that since the COVID pandemic they have distributed a record number of parcels: 181 consecutive days of over 1 million parcels daily compared to the best previously of 67. This increases the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 as workers are pressured to do 12-hour shifts to handle the volume, including replacing workers who are sick or have to self-quarantine. Temporary workers hired for Christmas processing and delivery have been called back. Many of these workers are new immigrants and particularly vulnerable to pressure to work all the hours they can because their pay increases are based on accumulating at least 1,000 hours a year. In spite of all this Canada Post is blaming the workers for the outbreak -- for lack of social distancing, for coming to work when they were not well. It is unconscionable.

Workers' Forum fully supports the fight of the postal workers and of all workers to work under healthy and secure working conditions on which they have say and control.


1. The Gateway plant in Mississauga is Canada Post's largest facility with more than 4,500 postal workers who work in mail processing, technical services, transportation and administration.

(Photos: CUPW Scarborough, OFL, CUPW)

Haut de page

Demands for Action in Defence of Rail Workers' Safety

Investigation Launched into 2019 Derailment

February 4 marked the second anniversary of the tragic deaths of three CP rail workers in a derailment near Field, BC. Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer died when CP Train 301 derailed near Field, British Columbia and plunged into the Kicking Horse River. 

On the anniversary Lyndon Isaak, President of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, issued a commemorative statement which read, in part, "With the anticipated release of the Transportation Safety Board's investigation expected in the coming months and the RCMP investigation underway we are hopeful we will have some answers to many of the outstanding questions surrounding this tragic event. We are committed to fighting for improvements to rail safety and ending these senseless tragedies that have plagued the rail industry over the recent years."

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, working with Niki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill -- Keewatinook Aski, and the families of the three workers, had organized an e-petition to Parliament and video appeals to Prime Minister Trudeau. The petition stated "The CP investigation has led to deeply concerning allegations and a call for an independent criminal investigation; The handling of the investigation has raised major concerns about the ongoing role of the railway police forces; The government of Canada through the department of Transport and the department of Public Safety have failed to ask the RCMP to launch a full and independent investigation on the accident; and The safety of rail workers, who are essential workers, is at stake and the families of those who perished deserve answers." Petitioners called upon the government to "launch a full and independent criminal investigation into the deadly derailment of CP train 301."

The CBC reports that the RCMP's major crimes unit in British Columbia has now opened a criminal investigation into the derailment. A spokesperson for the RCMP is quoted as saying that the BC prosecutor's office agreed that "potentially there could be some criminality here and that it warranted further investigation."

The two main rail monopolies in Canada, Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) each have their own private police forces. The CP Police conducted an initial investigation which was ended only a month after the tragedy. The investigation only looked at the actions of the crew in the period before the derailment. It did not look at any of the policies and actions of the company. One of the officers involved in the investigation, who subsequently quit and is now an RCMP officer in Golden, BC, told the CBC's Fifth Estate that the investigation was hampered by CP which failed to provide investigators with information they needed. A separate Transportation Safety Board investigation is yet to be completed. On its website, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada lists investigation R19C0015 into the Field derailment, last updated February 1, 2021, with the notification that "The investigation is in the report phase, the final phase of a TSB investigation. The draft report will be circulated to designated reviewers on a confidential basis for comment. For more information, please refer to the TSB investigation process." No date is given for when the report is to be released. In any event the TSB has no power to lay charges but can only publish findings and make recommendations.

Rail workers work in dangerous conditions. The need for adequate rest and training, for the implementation of rigorous safety procedures and for safety standards related to crew size, transportation of hazardous goods, and matters such as the length of trains on mountain passes, modifying or halting operations in extreme weather situations, are of utmost concern. In 2019 the workers waged an eight-day strike over safety conditions which resulted in some improvements but conditions remain far from satisfactory. The TSB, in its annual 2019 report on "rail transportation occurrences," states that 72 people, five of them employees, were "rail fatalities" that year, "up from 57 reported last year and approximately the same as the previous 10-year average of 73." In 2019, besides the increase in fatalities, in comparison to the average in the years 2009-2108, there was a 17 per cent increase in rail accidents, a 42 per cent increase in the number of main-track accidents per million main-track train miles, an increase in the number of accidents that involved dangerous goods, and the number of accidents resulting in release of dangerous goods was eight, double the ten-year average of four.

The use of a company police force to investigate, and the self-regulation of the industry by the companies without public oversight, has resulted in tragedies like the Lac Megantic disaster in 2013 and many other preventable incidents. Railway companies and the federal government must be forced to account for and take responsibility for the safety of railway workers and everyone who lives in the communities through which the trains pass.

(With files from Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, CBC, Transportation Safety Board. Photos: TRC, CUPW)

Haut de page

(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca