News Briefs

CFOs pension concerns linger • Professor shortage looming • Man. comp system in transition • Top court to review B.C. labour law • Telus-union battle heats up

CFOs pension concerns linger
— Many Canadian chief financial officers fear their pension headaches will not be cured anytime soon. The survey of 77 CFOs by consulting firm Watson Wyatt revealed a more pessimistic mood than last year, with 43 per cent of respondents saying underfunding problems will continue beyond the next few years. Just 20 per cent felt that way last year. “Although solvency levels are moving in the right direction, the improvement is largely due to the extra contributions that many plan sponsors have been making toward their pension deficits,” said Ian Markham of Watson Wyatt.

Professor shortage looming
— Ontario needs to spend at least $700-million to hire 11,000 new professors by 2010 to stave off a crisis in the province’s universities, according to a report from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. Exhausted faculty and deteriorating education quality will result if Ontario doesn’t better its student-to-professor ratio of 24 to one, much worse than the 15-to-one ratio the report says is optimal.

Man. comp system in transition
— Manitoba is looking to overhaul its workers compensation system. A new bill proposes consultations into an expansion of coverage for more workers in the province. “About 30 per cent of Manitoba workers are currently not covered by workers’ compensation, one of the highest percentages in the country,” said Labour Minister Nancy Allan. Among other proposed changes is an expansion of benefits for firefighters. The bill, if passed, would add certain types of cancers to the list of presumptive workplace illnesses for firefighters. Heart attacks that occur within 24 hours of an emergency response would also be presumed to be work-related injuries.

Top court to review B.C. labour law
— The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to review a British Columbia law that gives health-care employers the unrestricted right to contract out hospital support jobs. Gordon Campbell’s government introduced the law (Bill 29) more than three years ago and since then a coalition of B.C. health-sector unions has been fighting it. The unions say Bill 29 violates the equality provision of the Charter of Rights, as well the right to freedom of association.

Telus-union battle heats up
— In a bold move to try and break a 4.5-year collective bargaining stalemate, Telus e-mailed a five-year agreement proposal directly to employees, last month. Telus said it made the move because talks with the Telecommunications Workers Union were at an impasse and therefore the tactic did not break labour laws. The union disagreed and took immediate legal action in response. The offer from the company promised two-per-cent pay hikes for each of the next five years and the e-mails were customized to show employees what they would receive in pay increases, bonuses and other benefits.

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