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Vale employees asked to pay back $1 million in wages • Israel’s prime minister posts pay stub on Facebook • U of T employees draw public attention to fair pay battle • Half of Canadians yet to embrace TFSAs • Boomers not saving enough for retirement

Vale employees asked to pay back $1 million in wages

SUDBURY, ONT. — Nickel producer Vale overpaid employees by $1 million after a nearly year-long strike. About 2,450 production and maintenance workers at the Sudbury, Ont., site are now being asked to pay the money back. The workers are members of United Steelworkers Local 6500 and there were some glitches in the payroll system when the workers returned to work in July, according to media reports. Some workers were underpaid — which Vale has corrected — while others were overpaid and the overpaid employees were notified through letters. About 70 per cent of the 2,450 workers will have to repay as much as $550, 27 per cent will repay from $550 to $950 and three employees have to pay back about $2,000. Employees can pay the money back in a lump sum or have a percentage automatically deducted from their paycheques until the amount is repaid. Several employees have asked Vale to provide evidence of overpayment and the company is expected to send out another letter with supporting documentation.

Israel’s prime minister posts pay stub on Facebook

TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised his Facebook followers by posting a copy of his government pay stub, letting everyone know he takes home just 15,000 shekels ($4,200) each month. The online disclosure came as the country’s top officials and lawmakers are pushing for a pay rise, and the Israeli leader’s Facebook page said he “decided to provide total transparency” following public requests. Israeli media commentators described it as a public relations stunt, but still joked how they were caught off guard by Netanyahu’s low pay grade compared to other world leaders. A ranking of leaders’ pay by The Economist last July put Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at number one, with a basic annual salary of US $2.18 million. Netanyahu’s pay stub, from last month, listed a gross salary of about 44,000 shekels that quickly dwindled following taxes, health insurance and social security payments, as well as a 11,590 shekel monthly deduction for his armored car.

U of T employees draw public attention to fair pay battle

— University of Toronto employees have launched a unique advertising campaign in their fight for pay equity.
The campaign by U of T administrative and technical staff, represented by the United Steelworkers (USW), includes newspaper ads, social media marketing, on-the-street handbilling and advertising on bus shelters throughout the city. “Since 1999, we have been pushing the university to ensure our jobs are paid fairly and without gender bias,” said Allison Dubarry, USW Local 1998 president. “The University of Toronto is Canada’s highest-ranking university and it owes much of its success to its staff,” said Dubarry. “But our work is often not properly recognized or paid. Over the years, the job-evaluation process has shown there are widespread pay inequities.” The union is attempting to negotiate a plan with the university to end these inequities. This pay equity project affects 3,800 union members — 70 per cent of whom are women, said Dubarry. “The battle at U of T is part of the ongoing campaign to close Ontario’s 29 per cent gender pay gap,” said Mary Cornish, chair of Ontario’s Equal Pay Coalition. The campaign is sponsored by the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council.

Half of Canadians yet to embrace TFSAs

TORONTO — Slightly more than one-half of Canadians have yet to take advantage of tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), according to a survey by ING Direct Canada. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians who opened a TFSA since the program was launched in 2009 used it for an emergency fund or left it in a short-term investment, such as a savings account. “The finding is not surprising, as the flexibility of the TFSA as a liquid investment vehicle sets it apart from an RRSP. There is no tax implication when you withdraw funds and you don’t lose your contribution room over the long-term,” said Peter Aceto, president and chief executive officer of ING Direct Canada. “But that’s also led to confusion, meaning many Canadians are not tapping the true strength of TFSAs to shield a wide range of investments from taxation as part of a longer-term retirement strategy.” The financial industry has to do a better job educating savers, said Aceto. In 2011, contribution limits will rise to $15,000 meaning TFSAs can play a larger role in investment portfolios. But the survey found 47 per cent of respondents were unsure of which investments they would use inside their TFSAs, and only 13 per cent considered products such as mutual funds that have the potential to generate higher returns.

Boomers not saving enough for retirement

— Baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement, but aren’t financially ready, according to a survey by TD Waterhouse. The survey polled boomers (ages 45 to 64) to determine their emotional and financial state heading into retirement. Sixty-seven per cent say they are worried they won’t have enough money and only 15 per cent feel very well-prepared. Only 34 per cent of boomers have a plan in place for retirement, according to the survey. The survey also found a correlation between having a financial plan and happiness levels: when thinking about their current or future retirement, boomers who have a financial plan are more likely to feel happy (55 per cent versus 31 per cent) or relieved (37 per cent versus 22 per cent) than those without. “Most Canadians recognize the importance of planning ahead to ensure that they are financially ready when they stop working, yet it’s concerning that, even as boomers approach retirement age, many still haven’t established a comprehensive plan for achieving a financially-secure retirement,” said Patricia Lovett-Reid, senior vice-president, TD Waterhouse. “Planning, saving and investing for retirement is even more critical now than ever before — we can’t afford to ignore it.” The top three ways planned to fund retirement are: RRSPs (61 per cent), Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan (60 per cent) and company pensions (47 per cent). Thirty-nine per cent of boomers plan to fund their retirement by continuing to work. 

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