Proposed pension changes fuel protest outside McGuinty office

Higher employee contributions, pooled pensions take away employee control: Union

Several dozen public sector workers, social activists and local labour leaders demonstrated outside of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's Ottawa constituency office in late July in opposition to proposed pension changes.

The proposed pension changes could take away the control workers have over their own retirement funds, said the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

"What the McGuinty government is doing amounts to an unprecedented attack on the voice public sector workers have over their own pensions," said Chris Cormier, a member of the executive board for the eastern region of OPSEU.

If the changes proposed by the government are adopted, the impact on pensions could be dramatic, said Dave Lundy, also an OPSEU board member for eastern Ontario.

"There's no question that the financial security of public sector workers in their retirement years is very much under threat if the government is allowed to wrest control of our members' life savings away from them," said Lundy.

In this year's budget Finance Minister Dwight Duncan put forward proposed changes to public sector pension plans that will see employees contributing more and smaller pension plans will be pooled in an effort to reduce administrative costs.

In other changes, where employers currently contribute more than employees, the ratio will be reduced to a 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement.

The changes represent a “stunning attack” on a pension system that has been working smoothly, said OPSEU president Warren Thomas.

"Since 1996 our members have controlled their contributions to the Ontario Pension Trust. This allowed us to have an effective hand in where that money was invested, reflecting our values and our members' interests," said Thomas. "What the government is proposing is nothing less than a power grab over our members' retirement savings, leaving us with no meaningful voice in the direction of pension investment.”

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