Unifor’s first Pension Summit, held at the union's Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, launched with the theme of “Building a Secure Pension Future Together.”
“We can succeed in the challenge of protecting and advancing our interests in building a secure pension for workers," said Secretary-Treasurer Bob Orr as he opened the Summit.
Members from across the country were brought together May 4-6 to build an understanding of the issues and challenges facing current pension models and formulate an action plan for the union.
“This was an excellent opportunity to review the current status of public pensions and examine trends impacting private plans,” said Corey Vermey, Unifor’s Director of Pensions and Benefits. “This is key information as the union charts its future strategy to ensure adequate and secure retirement pensions for all Unifor members and retirees.”
Pressures on existing pension models, including the decline in employer sponsored pensions, the growing shift from Defined Benefit (DB) plans to Defined Contribution (DC) plans, and the impact of an aging population combined with longer life expectancies were examined.
“Retirement security is and will continue to be a major bargaining issue for our members,” said Vermey. “In addition to Unifor’s efforts to secure pensions through bargaining the union has also been active politically in the fight to change universal social security (OAS) and public pensions (CPP and QPP).”
Unifor members and retired workers vigorously campaigned to improve the Canada Pension Plan, which resulted in the first benefit increase in the plan’s 50 year history.
“The Prime Minister and every Premier changed over the duration of Unifor’s campaign for better pensions, so the lobbying effort had to begin over and over again,” said Jenny Ahn, Assistant to the National Secretary-Treasurer. “We persevered and ultimately achieved a significant victory that will benefit generations to come.”
Pension Summit keynote speaker Bruce Raynor, former Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, told delegates of examples where existing union pension plans were successfully leveraged to sway corporate agendas.
“Not only do we not want our money to hurt workers, we want our money to be used responsibly to help workers.” said Raynor.
Delegates also took part in sector related workshops to share information on pension plans in their workplaces and offer views on how to best address common issues.
On the final day delegates were presented with a proposed work plan, “Shaping the Future of Retirement Security for Unifor and Its Members,” outlining pension goals and suggested measures to achieve them.
Next steps will include an inventory to determine the current pension status of the membership and a second Pension Summit is being organized to take place in Quebec this fall. Unifor will then partner with Common Wealth and Koskie and Minsky LLP to incorporate the data from the inventory and the work plan to develop the union’s pension strategy and create a concrete action plan.
To view a photos of the Pension Summit visit Facebook.com/UniforCanada.