The Ministry of Finance announced in December that Jim Leech was appointed to prepare a report for the government on potential options for restructuring the pension plans in four broader public sector agencies: ESA, Hydro One, IESO and OPG.
While The Society had not been anticipating the one-man review and recommendation process tasked to Mr. Leech, the government interest in reviewing our pension plans was not unexpected. The government has focused on our pension plans for some time now as part of its austerity agenda. Society members belong to some of the few public sector pension plans not to have undergone reform.
The first clear signal that reform is coming was when the electricity sector was singled out for attention in the October 2012 Morneau Report on pooling of pension assets. This was followed by the highlighting of our plans for reform in the spring 2013 Ontario budget, and then again in the government’s fall 2013 economic update.
Knowing that this process was coming, The Society met with Morneau in January 2013 and sought meetings with the Ministry of Finance to gain insight into their intended course of action. The Society also began studying pension issues last summer. The Society engaged external pension specialists who have worked through these kinds of issues on behalf of other unions in the past (e.g. The Health Care of Ontario Pension Plan). The union also brought together elected representatives from each of the four affected locals to discuss the relative merits of different pension designs so that the central union, working with affected locals, would be ready for any future discussions with government and employers.
As all of these activities show, The Society is taking this issue seriously and we are preparing for what is believed will be tough fights ahead.
On January 9, The Society met with Mr. Leech to discuss the scope of his work. Mr. Leech confirmed that he shares The Society’s view that our pensions are part of our collective agreements. Mr. Leech also noted that he is only providing recommendations to the government, not seeking to enter into negotiations to alter our pensions.
Every elected officer of The Society is also a participant in an electricity sector pension plan. This means that elected officers understand the importance of members’ pension plans because they know how important their pension is to their own retirement security. The Society’s leadership remains committed to ensuring members have a pension plan that provides comfort and income certainty to allow for a long, stress-free retirement from work and will do what it takes to protect members’ common interests.
The government has asked for Mr. Leech to produce a report with his recommendations for possible paths forward by the end of February. The Society takes members’ pension plans very seriously and knows how important they are to members. The Society will provide further updates as soon as more information is available.