There has been a lot of discussion lately about
pensions; their value and their costs. Recently,
Tim Hudak decided to share his vision of
pensions for the workers of Ontario if he is successful in forming the next
government. He says: “government pensions for new employees should be
changed to defined contribution plans, where the money, staff and employers
pay in determines the level of benefits.” Many have been asking what is a
defined contribution plan and what do I have now? Those are great questions!
If we don’t know what we have now, and what we risk losing, we might elect
the wrong person to look after our interests.
Currently all full-time support staff, faculty and
administrators have a defined benefit pension plan, the CAAT Pension Plan.
It is one of the few ways in which all full-time college workers are treated
equally. The plan is jointly sponsored between OPSEU, OCASA and Colleges
Ontario and the parties work together to provide
a defined benefit upon retirement. All of our pension monies are pooled
together and invested by experts. Monies are set aside for retirees to
guarantee their pensions. Although the investment markets may fluctuate,
retired members are guaranteed their pension. This means that if you work in
the College and retire, you will receive the benefit promised for as long as
you live. If you live until 75 or 85 or 95, the monthly pension
cheque will be sent to you. The pension benefit
is defined up front and guaranteed.
Some workers in the province are not as fortunate
as we are. They instead have a defined contribution pension plan. A defined contribution plan specifies the amount of the employer’s annual
contribution. Individual accounts are set up where the employer contributes,
the employee contributes and interest accumulates. Only employer
contributions to the account are guaranteed, not the future benefits. In
defined contribution plans, future benefits fluctuate on the basis of
investment earnings. Thousands of people have lost their life savings and
their retirement future this way. If you run out of money at 75 or 85 or 95,
there will be no cheque in the mail. Employers can also change their mind
about how much they are willing to contribute.
We’ve seen how support staff have received less benefits from the employer
than other groups of workers in the college system. We’ve seen how support
staff have received less wage increases than other workers in the college
system. Our pension is the one thing where we are all treated equally. If
Tim Hudak gets his way and wins the next election, we will be forced to
negotiate our pension contributions at the bargaining table. We know that
this will put our pensions and the pensions of future support staff workers
at risk. Ask yourself: How many of your co-workers are going to be willing
to strike to ensure that they get both a wage increase and pension monies
with every contract?
Our current plan is a great pension plan. It isn’t gold-plated as Tim Hudak
would want you and the other citizens of the province to believe. It
provides a living wage upon retirement so that support staff can retire and
pay their bills. This is one of the issues that you really need to pay
attention to when you are electing your next Premier.
Did you know?
Bereavement Leave provides you with
three or more days without loss of pay in order to attend or make
arrangements for the funeral of your parent, spouse (or common law spouse),
child, step-child, brother, sister, mother-in-law, father-in-law,
brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent,
spouse’s grandparent, grand-child or guardian. The duration of the leave is
at the discretion of the College.
Benefits Booklet on the way!
This spring you can expect to see a new
booklet explaining what your benefits are. Many of you will be familiar
with the old “green” book. The new one promises to be more user-friendly
with easy to understand terms. The Joint Insurance Committee and the
Council have been working jointly on this project. Check the OPSEU website
this spring for further updates.