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Unions, CBC tackle pension challenge

CCSB Report, March 2006

The CBC Pension Plan dominated discussions at the most recent meeting of the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits in Ottawa. The plan is undergoing its regular valuation and continues to be healthy, with a surplus on a going concern basis. While the final numbers aren’t in yet, the plan has more than enough money to meet its pension obligations in the longer term; however, it will show a deficit on a solvency basis. That means the plan would not have been able to pay out all of its obligations had it been shut down on December 31, 2005, something that obviously didn’t happen and is not likely to happen in the future.

In large part, the solvency test an artificial exercise for a Crown corporation but is necessary because of federal legislation, which dictates that an employer has to put extra money into its pension fund to fix the lower of the two test results (ie. going concern or solvency) if it is in deficit.

If the CBC has to put millions of extra dollars into the plan this year, there could be job losses. The unions and the CBC don’t want that, especially when the money will be used to reduce a solvency deficit that exists mainly on paper. For that reason, the unions at the CBC and the pensioners’ association have agreed to work with the CBC to develop a joint submission to the federal government. The unions and pensioners have clashed with the CBC in the past over pension issues but the we think more is to be gained in this case by trying the joint approach.

Many of Canada’s defined benefit pension plans are in the same situation, and the CBC isn’t the only federal Crown corporation facing a solvency deficit. Last year, the Liberal government began a review of pension funding legislation, but it’s uncertain whether the new government sees that kind of pension reform as a priority. Some of the suggestions put forward last fall may form the basis for proposals to the new government. We’ll keep you updated on any proposal that is submitted.

ACTRA service buyback

For most of the past decade, the Canadian Media Guild has been pressuring the CBC to amend the pension plan so that members can buy back their continuing ACTRA contract service at actuarial cost. On several occasions the Corporation has indicated it would make the required amendment, but it has never carried through. At this latest meeting, we expected some positive news, but the Corporation still says it needs more time to research the scope of what’s involved. The CBC’s delays have been most frustrating, especially because some Guild members were able to buy back their ACTRA service when they converted to staff status, while people who joined the pension plan at other times have been denied the same opportunity. We will continue to try to correct this wrong.

Buying back other contract service

In the CMG’s latest collective agreement with the CBC, contract employees with two years of continuous service are now able to join the pension plan for the first time. When this was negotiated last fall, the Corporation agreed contract employees would be able to buy back previous service at the actuarial cost. Recently, contract employees who have asked for quotes on the cost of buying this past service have been told they cannot buy back the first two years. The Guild maintains this was not part of what was bargained last year and will take whatever action necessary to defend that position.

Employee wellness

During the past year, the CMG and other unions have been working with the CBC to begin addressing the deep-rooted causes of employee stress in the workplace. The magnitude of that problem is documented in an employee survey that was released in January. We are working with the author of that study, Dr. Jean-Pierre Brun of Laval University, and the CBC to develop concrete plans to promote wellness in the workplace. To assist in that goal, the CCSB has agreed to use up to $250,000 from the special assistance fund on pilot projects and other initiatives. We expect the Corporation to match that contribution, and we will jointly seek money from other sources, such as federal government programs, to continue that vital work.

Your CCSB members,

Philippe Bourbeau
Ralph Legare
Carrie May
Barbara Saxberg
Jon Soper
Gabi Durocher
Dan Oldfield

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