CBC President Robert Rabinovitch has recently justified the Corporation’s grab of pension surplus as being a way to direct money to other corporate priorities. While skimming off $77-million in pension assets, he makes the outrageous statement that “we are in the business of serving Canadians, not ourselves.” More on that later.
The business of pensions is complicated, but one fact is known for sure. The pension plan does not belong to the CBC. It belongs to the employees of CBC and its pensioners. The assets of the plan and the rewards generated by investments are the property of the more than 16,000 women and men who have dedicated their working lives to the Public Broadcaster.
Since its creation in 1961, the plan has seen benefits improve. During that same period, because of the solid performance of the plan, CBC has been able to enjoy millions of dollars in contribution holidays. The assets of the plan now sit at almost $4.5 billion.
The CBC likes to create the image that it is doing employees a favour by having a defined benefit plan. The existence of this plan is by no means the result of altruism on the part of the employer. The plan was negotiated decades ago and is as much a part of employees’ working conditions as wages, benefits and holidays.
Under that negotiated agreement, both employees and the employer contribute. CBC willingly and with full knowledge took on its obligations with regards to the plan. Nothing has changed about those obligations. What has changed over the years is that the assets have grown and we are now able to refund some contributions and make improvements.? And the employer has sometimes been able to take a contribution holiday.
What do the Unions and Pensioners want?
Mr. Rabinovitch’s statement about “serving Canadians” ignores the point that pension plan assets are not for the purposes of funding public broadcasting. CBC employees give plenty when it comes to serving Canadians. Many, many people and organizations benefit from the CBC; not all of them contribute to the plan. The Pension plan has just one purpose, to ensure that employees have a decent income when they retire. The job of those overseeing the plan is to wisely invest the assets and use those assets to the benefit of employees. It’s no more complicated than that.
The Unions and the Pensioners Association have been attempting, without success, to have the Corporation and the pension investment advisors meet with the joint Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits (CCSB) in order to review the recent evaluation of the plan, to discuss those results, to ask questions and to consider improvements for plan members.
The Corporation has stubbornly refused.
As we have in the past, we will take whatever legal steps are necessary to enforce your rights as members of the plan. Special, CBC-issued “news bulletins” will not change those rights. If the CBC president actually believes the course of action taken unilaterally by the Corporation is, “the most responsible and prudent,” surely he will have no difficulty having all options explored.
A message from all CBC/SRC unions and the CBC Pensioners Association