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Pension update: who do they think they’re fooling?

George Smith, VP of human resources at CBC, continues a practice that has become all too common and insulting with the online publication “Pension Pulse.” It purports to be a “fact-based news update” designed to give employees a better understanding of the CBC pension plan.

We will agree with CBC on two points: defined pension plans are the best way to ensure an employee’s retirement income, and the CBC plan is a good plan.

However, Smith is not satisfied with simply providing details of the plan. In fact, his latest missive says virtually nothing about the current state of the plan. Instead, Smith poses questions under the category of “myths and facts.” Of course, the myths are entirely of his own creation and the facts are questionable.

For example, he claims there’s a myth that CBC took $77-million from the fund. While dashing this notion, he acknowledges the CBC has stopped contributions to the fund to the tune of $77-million. The difference? Zero. The effect is the same.

Whether CBC is taking money out, or simply not adding money that would have gone into the plan, it is costing the pension fund the same amount: $77 million. He also doesn’t explain that if the liabilities of the plan were increased through improvements, or if employees or pensioners were to get a refund on contributions, there would be no reason or justification for a contribution holiday by the CBC.

Smith’s other straw dog concerns ownership of the plan. He claims it’s a myth that employees own the plan. He then goes on to talk about how both employees and the employer contribute to the plan and how the CBC is responsible for any deficits. What he doesn ‘t actually address is the issue of ownership. What he doesn’t tell us is that all benefits go to employees who retire. What he doesn’t acknowledge is that, if the CBC went out of business tomorrow, every nickel in the fund would be distributed to employees and pensioners.

The CBC pension plan was negotiated more than four decades ago to provide a decent retirement income for employees. It is not a gift of some kind bestowed by a generous employer. It was negotiated. CBC and the Unions have always fully understood their obligations with respect to the plan. Nothing about those obligations has changed. Employer contribution holidays simply reduce the amount of money available to employees and pensioners. That is no myth. That is a fact.

Senior management has begun a campaign designed to justify the Corporation’s actions around the use of pension fund surpluses. It’s clear that same management team continues to underestimate the intelligence of employees. We encourage you to ask questions and we urge you not to be fooled by half-truths.

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

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