Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Regina Union Members step-up to Support Pension Plan

CUPE Local 21

CUPE and other groups representing employees in the Regina Civic Pension Plan sent a strong message to City Council when they voted to support a contribution rate increase. At last month’s meeting, 12 of the 15 of the unions and associations in attendance voted to accept the rate increase. Two out of three dissenting groups represent civic managers.

“The vote clearly shows members are willing to step-up and pay more to protect their defined pension benefit,” says CUPE 7 President Lorne Chow, who represents Regina inside city workers. “They want City Council to do the same,” he adds. The Regina Civic Pension Plan, like many defined benefit plans across the country, is facing a serious funding shortfall due in large part to the financial crisis in 2008 and reduced expectations for investment returns.

The employers in the plan – which include the City of Regina, the Regina General Hospital, the Regina Public Library and the Regina Public School Board – want to deal with the deficit by replacing the existing plan with a vastly inferior one. But the employers’ proposal is not finding much support among the plan’s 3,900 members. More than two-thirds belong to CUPE.

“If we lose these benefits, we’ll never see them again,” says CUPE 21 member John Gangl, who represents Regina outside city workers around the pension table. “That’s why members are prepared to pay more to safeguard the plan.”

The contribution increases, recommended by the plan’s actuary, will see rates rise to 12.38% of earnings for both employees and employers up to the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) and 18.34% on earnings above the YMPE.

“It’s going to be tough because a lot of my co-workers are single income earners who have to stretch their pay cheques,” says Janet Craig, who represents CUPE 1594 members at the Regina Public Library. “But their pension benefit is all they have for retirement and they’re determined to keep it.”

Although the employers are complaining the required rate increases are “an unacceptable burden,” the civic unions suggest City Council needs to view the increase as an investment in the civic workforce.

“If City Council can find the money to give Mosaic – which had profits of $2.35 billion last year – a $1.6 million tax exemption for moving 150 jobs here, it can find the money to support almost 4,000 employees who have made serving this community their life’s work,” says CUPE staff representative Aina Kagis.

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