IBEW members employed at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories are set to be kicked out of the public service pension plan they belong to in September of this year, because of steps taken to privatize this important part of our national energy infrastructure.
Nearly 3300 workers at sites in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, over 100 of which are IBEW members, are set to be impacted by this move, initially implemented by Harper’s Conservatives and being supported by the Liberal government’s inaction.
This problem stems from a “Government-Owned Contractor-Operated” (GoCo) model implemented in 2015, which included the loss of the pension plan for existing employees after a three-year period, ending in 2018. This model also implements a two-tier system, providing no pension plan at all for workers hired after September 2015.
While an attack on workers pensions, like this, is not fair to hard-working Canadians, it creates a broader problem, bringing uncertainty to the nuclear industry in Canada. It not only reduces the competitive wage package needed to attract the best and brightest to this highly technical field, it will make it difficult to retain the current highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce which makes Canada’s nuclear field one of the most highly respected, and safest, in the world.
In a recent survey of CNL employees impacted by these changes, 91.6% of respondents feel that the changes to the PSSA pension plan have or will cause uncertainty for their future career at CNL and uncertainty for their family, with over half of respondents considering leaving CNL.
Pension Issues are a Public Issue
On February 7, NDP MP Daniel Blaikie asked a question in the House of Commons on this issue, stating:
“We have seen too many times the Liberal government’s indifference to the pensions of private sector workers like those at Sears, but right under its nose, at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, there are thousands of workers from Chalk River, Ontario, to Pinawa, Manitoba, who are going to be kicked out of the public service pension plan in September because of the federal government’s privatization agenda. The government has known about this issue for a long time now. Will the President of the Treasury Board stand up today and let these workers know what is going to happen to their pension in September?”
To which, the President of the Treasury Board, the Honerable Scott Brison, responded saying, “We have immense respect for our public service. In fact, we have an understanding of the importance of strong well-funded pension plans, which is why our finance minister has worked with provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the CPP across Canada. The question the hon. member has asked is one that the Minister of Natural Resources has engaged in. We will work with all stakeholders, and we will ensure that all public servants are treated fairly.”
While the Liberal government has spoken out in support of these workers, little action has been taken. In order to stand with these workers, the Federal government needs to reverse the decision made by the previous government and keep all of these workers in the PSSA pension plan, before they are permanently removed in September 2018.
Our members, and those members of other unions and non-bargaining unit workers should stay in touch with their shop stewards and on site representatives to stay up-to-date on this important issue. The IBEW, along with our allies, will continue to stand up for workers at the CNL facilities and across Canada to protect the rights, benefits and pension plans that you have worked so hard to obtain.