Public union leaders challenge Alberta to address 'the real retirement crisis' | National Union of Public and General Employees

Public union leaders challenge Alberta to address 'the real retirement crisis'

“The solution to the real retirement crisis is staring us in the face,” the four union leaders said. “It is not to attack the retirement savings of working Canadians or to raise the age at which they can retire, but to provide a fair publicly administered pension plan for all.”

Edmonton (16 Sept. 2013) -Expressing their grave concern about the still-unknown contents of the Alberta government’s pension policy announcement on September 16, the presidents of Alberta’s four largest public service unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) said today that their members’ retirement savings plans are sustainable, affordable, modest and fair.

Unions call on Minister of Finance to address pension crisis, not by attacking retirement savings but by providing a public pension plan for all

There is a crisis in retirement savings for middle class Canadians, “but it is not the crisis that has been cooked up by right-wing lobby groups,” said the joint statement by Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) President Elisabeth Ballermann, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) President Guy Smith, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) President Heather Smith and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Marle Roberts.

“The real crisis is the retirement security disaster faced by tens of thousands, possibly millions, of middle-class taxpayers in Alberta and throughout Canada,” said their statement, read by AFL President Gil McGowan in front of Government House, where Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner will make his pension announcement on Monday.

“The solution to the real retirement crisis is staring us in the face,” the four union leaders said. “It is not to attack the retirement savings of working Canadians or to raise the age at which they can retire, but to provide a fair publicly administered pension plan for all.”

Joint statement emphasizes public employee contributions stablizing pension plans

The joint statement on pensions emphasized the sustainability of all of Alberta’s current public service pension plans. “As we speak, thanks to the contributions made by plan members, these plans are returning to full funding, where they stood in 2007 before the international financial crisis.

The contributions made by members and employers represent savings from members’ pay, the leaders noted, adding that payouts to members tend to be very modest – the average yearly pension paid to members of the Public Service Penson Plan (PSPP) currently $12,414 and the average pension paid to members of the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) is $14,958.

“These modest retirement incomes constitute the life savings of plan members,” the statement said. “They are a huge benefit to the Alberta economy because most of the retirement income of middle class Albertans is spent right here in our own Alberta communities.”

Plan representatives have not been told content of announcement: concern pensions will become a political football

The leaders expressed their concern that, pushed by aggressive lobbying by right-wing groups, there is a risk the pensions of approximately 300,000 of their members and former members may become a political football for a government that feels the need to re-establish its conservative image to confront the Wildrose Party Opposition.

None of the stakeholder groups representing plan members – who are technically supposed to be equal partners in the plan – has been informed of what Horner intends to announce tomorrow to the public, media and plan participants.

Horner’s stakeholder meeting is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to noon on September 16 at Government House.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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