Local MLA opposes Bill 9
Thursday, Apr 24, 2014 06:00 am
Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson recently voiced his party’s opposition to Bill 9 - the Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, - which, according to Anderson threatens existing public pension benefits for hard working Albertans across the province.
“As usual, the PC government’s standard operating procedure on labour relations issues is that of bullying instead of good faith negotiations,” Anderson said. “Wildrose has long supported the view that contracts and agreements must be respected. That includes the pension arrangements promised to current public sector workers and pensioners who chose their careers in the public sector based, at least in part, on the promise of the current public pension arrangement.”
The government introduced Bill 9 on April 16 and if passed it could overhaul Alberta pension plans affecting more than 200,000 public sector workers.
Minister of Finance Fred Horner said the changes are needed to cover more than $7 billion in unfunded liability.
“Alberta’s public sector pension plans are currently on an unsustainable path,” said Horner in a speech in the Legislature.
“While we’re not in a crisis situation right now, without adequate changes, we could be down the road. We are at a critical juncture in time where these significant challenges threaten to undermine public sector pension plans.”
Currently, pensions are guaranteed to 60 per cent of the rate of inflation. Under the proposed changes that 60 per cent will become a guideline rather than a mandatory figure.
Also included in the proposed changes will be to institute a limit on contributions by employers and employees. Critics to the bill believe that cap will result in reduced benefits.
Employees age 55 years or older with 30 years of service can retire with full benefits. Under the changes, that age will be raised to 60 years old with 30 years of service for new hires starting in 2016.
“Yet there remain those who claim Alberta’s public sector pension plans are sustainable as-is,” Horner said.
“Labour groups are trying to convince their members there is no problem. They expect their members and employers to increase their contributions year after year—ignoring the fact that they already pay among the highest costs in Canada.”
Alberta Federation of Labour – a provincial union – also raised the alarm, and issued an information booklet on April 17 stating that the new changes would “gut Alberta’s pension plans.”
“If the government’s proposals are enacted, hundreds of thousands of Alberta public-sector workers will have to work longer and pay more out of their own pockets to receive pensions that are significantly smaller and less secure,” the union stated.
If approved, the new changes would be effective 2016, and those set to retire in 2015 will be unaffected.
“Wildrose is committed to repealing Bill 9 if elected in 2016, along with Bills 45 and 46 which also unjustly ignore the legal rights of our public sector employees,” Anderson said.