HEU to consider greater control over pension

HEU’s Provincial Executive has given the green light to the union’s participation in discussions aimed at safeguarding members’ pension plans.

The move comes as the provincial government prepares to introduce legislation that would allow changes in the governance of public pensions.

“Pension reform can provide important protections for HEU members’ retirement income,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “If workers gain more control over pension administration, we can avoid a situation where government raids pension surpluses or provides contribution holidays to employers. “And that’s a real concern as the Municipal Plan moves into a surplus position next year.”

Allnutt says proposed legislation that would combine the various statutes controlling public sector pensions into a single law would enable unions to negotiate joint trusteeship of their pension plans if they so choose.

But at the same time, the new legislation would provide key protections to workers’ pensions — government cannot change pension plan arrangements unless both unions and employers agree.

That would prevent any unilateral raids of pension surpluses. “We have a very small window of opportunity to gain greater control over our pension earnings,” says Allnutt.

“Other public sector unions like CUPE B.C., BCGEU and the College-Institute Educators’ Association are already moving towards joint trusteeship.” “The PE has established an ad hoc pension committee to evaluate HEU’s options in this regard,” adds Allnutt. “But at the same time, HEU will not enter a joint trusteeship arrangement without first putting the proposal to the membership for ratification.”

The PE has taken the position that any move towards joint trusteeship provides for maximum control of the plan surplus by workers and minimizes the risk of any unfunded liabilities on plan members.

The PE pension committee members are Chris Allnutt, Fred Muzin, Mary LaPlante, Sheila Rowswell and Maurice Smith. Okanagan Director Steve Polak will provide staff support.