Pension talks in crucial phase

Negotiations between unions, government and health employers are underway this week on changes to the governance of HEU members' Municipal Superannuation pension plan that could bring about significant and positive reforms. Centre stage in the talks is the concept of joint trusteeship, a governance model that would give unions equal control over the plan. Currently, employers are in the driverís seat when it comes to decision making. The negotiations result from a decision made last year by the NDP government that cleared the way for discussions to give public sector unions like HEU more control over their members' pension plans. Also involved in the Municipal Superannuation talks are BCNU, HSA, CUPE municipal workers, and firefighters. "Our goals in these negotiations are straightforward," said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "We need to gain more control over governance and decision-making for the plan, to ensure that any surpluses are used to improve pension benefits for our members rather than provide premium holidays for employers." Allnutt said that any agreement reached in the negotiations would be sent out for ratification by HEU members. Pension benefits and plan provisions are an increasingly important issue for HEU members, says Allnutt. According to an internal union membership poll carried out last December, 35 per cent of union members are less than 10 years away from retirement. Most union members' almost 60 per centñsay theyíre not confident that upon retirement their pension benefits will provide them with a comfortable standard of living.