Fight for the right to retire

By January 28, 2015Labour Views

Labour Views January 28, 2015
Written by Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President, PSAC North

Canadian workers shouldn’t have to fight for the right to a secure retirement.
They should feel comfortable knowing they’ll be able to live out their twilight years without worrying about making ends meet.

After all, most workers have paid into the Canadian Pension Plan all their lives, and have put in their fair share of contributions to their workplace pension plan.

But non-stop attacks on pension plans by both the Conservative government as well as employers have forced workers of all classes to fight tooth and nail for the benefits they’ve been guaranteed all their lives.

First, the Harper government cut Canadians’ eligibility for Old Age Security from 65 to 67, forcing Canadians to work longer before they could retire. That means 12 million Canadians who don’t have the benefit of a workplace pension have been left high and dry, and the situation is only getting worse, not better.

The Canadian Labour Congress estimates that by 2030, the annual costs of the OAS and Guaranteed Income Supplement will triple to $108 billion, shoving all of that extra burden onto the next generation of young people. It’s our children who will pay the price for the government’s actions of today. Moreover, in workplaces across Canada, employers and governments are slashing pension plans and pushing for privatization wherever they can.

The attacks first swallowed the private sector, engulfing workers at Air Canada, the Big Three Automakers, U.S. Steel and many others. Then the onslaught shifted to public sector workers, where employers – fearing a shaky economy – moved to take away stable pension plans. Across Canada, employers moved to eliminate “defined benefit plans,” which guarantee a set monthly salary into retirement, in favour of “target benefit plans,” which take away that pension promise and put all the risk squarely on the shoulders of workers.

That’s the very case affecting more than 1,000 workers across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut now, as they lobby to make sure the Northern Employee Benefits Services Pension Plan Act doesn’t strip away their pension benefits.
Worried about what an uncertain retirement would mean for their children and families, workers have rallied to have (NEBS) Bills 12 and 1 repealed.
They’ve written letters to their Member of the Legislative Assembly. They’ve done everything they can to let their voices be heard.

In a similar move, Bombardier employees in Thunder Bay went so far as to launch an eight-week strike in July, 2014 to protect their secure defined benefit pension plan.
Their strike worked.

If not for speaking out, for defending the right to a secure retirement, employers will continue to erode pension funds, using an uncertain economy as an excuse to take “contribution holidays” and to dip into pension funds to cover their own shortfalls.
It’s also important for both workers and the employer to have an equal say when it comes to making changes to their own pension plan. After all, their entire livelihood hinges upon it.

That’s why it’s so important to stand united against aggressive pension reform.
Don’t let someone else make the decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. Because in the end, We Are All Affected.