NDP introduces legislation to enable joint trusteeship of pension funds

Pension reform is past due This week the NDP government introduced a bill which when enacted will enable public sector workers — including those in health care — to have a direct say in how their pension plans are managed and how the pension benefits can be improved. Right now the trusteeship of public sector pensions in B.C. is held only by the employer — the government. Under the Public Sector Pension Plans Act, the trusteeship will be jointly shared by the employer and the workers. The proposed act consolidates and modernizes the statutes governing four public sector pensions plans while providing a mechanism through which workers are able to have an equal say in the management of their pension funds. "With joint trusteeship it will be impossible for future governments to treat pension surpluses as another source of revenue," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "Instead, health care workers will have a say over how their hard-earned pension contributions are managed with a view to safeguarding and improving future pension benefits." Allnutt says the new act would prevent a government raid on pension surpluses such as that conducted by the Liberals in Ottawa on the federal public sector pension plan earlier this year when 700,000 workers were powerless to stop the federal government from stripping $28 billion in surpluses from their pension plan. "With this new act in place, future pension surpluses in B.C. will be used to improve retirement benefits not as a government cash cow," says Allnutt. In other provinces shared control of public sector pensions has been a reality since the early 1990s. The Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan, The Canadian Blood Services Plan and Albertaís Local Authorities Plan are only a few examples. Workplace pension plans which are jointly held also have an impressive track record in terms of financial performance. The IWA-Forest Industry Pension Plan and the Telecommunications Workers' Pension Plan are two long-standing joint trusteeship arrangements which consistently post returns that place them in the top ranks of pension plans across Canada. "I have one piece of advice for politicians who oppose this legislation," says Allnutt. "Keep your hands off workers' hard earned retirement income."