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CMG opposes CBC holiday on pension contributions

The Canadian Media Guild is opposing the CBC’s unilateral decision to reduce its contribution to the CBC pension plan by $77 million over the next two years. Without first consulting with pensioners or employees, the CBC announced on March 21 that it was reducing its contribution to the fund because the pension plan is in a surplus situation according to two different measures.

Late last year, the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits ? the joint committee involving all CBC unions and management that weighs in on pension issues ?proposed pension improvements for part-time and contract employees. The CBC rejected this option. The proposal would likely cost around $5 million; with a healthy surplus, it would be easily affordable and leave plenty of room for the CBC to take a contribution holiday.

That the pension plan performed well in 2006 and is on a strong footing should be good news. The assets exceed $4 billion and it is funded at 112% in terms of its ongoing obligations to pensioners. As well, if the plan had been wound down at the end of 2006, there would have been more than enough money available to meet its obligations to all contributors. This is what employees, pensioners and governments look for in a pension plan.

But it’s not good news if the success is not shared fairly. There is no question that the CBC has some pressing financial needs and can use money elsewhere. However, improving equity in the plan, for example by giving part-time and contract employees access to pension benefits on their full years of service should also be a priority.

After all, a pension plan is not a rainy-day fund for employers. It is primarily about deferring wages while we are working so that we continue to have a steady ? and liveable ? income after retirement.

We should note that we fought a similar battle recently against the CBC and won at arbitration. In 1999, there was a sizeable plan surplus and the CCSB recommended using some of it to improve the benefits for plan members; the CBC refused. Last year, an arbitrator ruled that the CBC should have followed the CCSB resolution. However, the CBC has requested a judicial review of the arbitrator’s decision.

The CMG is consulting with our sister unions and the pensioners to come up with a unified approach to opposing the CBC’s raid on the 2006 surplus. History suggests that results won’t necessarily be fast in coming. However, we will explore every possible avenue to make sure that the members of the plan benefit directly from its recent success.

We will keep you informed of all developments.

For more information, contact the Guild (info@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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