"For our organizations, a negotiated settlement is better than a forced agreement" said La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec union leaders.
Montréal (18 Dec. 2013) - Québec's labour movement is cautiously optimistic about proposals from the provincial government to address pension concerns. Daniel Boyer, President of the 600,000 member Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), said that "we are well aware that we must now get to work. We are pleased with the solution proposed by the minister using a labour relations approach and is imposing realistic time frame."
Agnès Maltais, who is responsible for the Québec Pension Plan, announced the government’s response to a report on the retirement system and pension reform released last spring (called the D’Amours Report).
D'Amours Report and province's pension problems
It is reported that the provinces pension plans are facing some serious challenges:
- municipal and other public pension plans have $5-billion deficit
- private plans currently $26 billion in debt
- university pension plans, with total obligations of $5 billion, have an $800-million deficit
The Régie des rentes du Québec, pays pension benefits to Quebecers who contributed in their working years and oversees 860 defined benefit pension plans in the province with combined assets of $100 billion and 1.2 million participants (half are retired).
Québec's pension plans have yet to recover from the 2008 crash in the financial sector and current interest rates are the lowest since the 1950s.
The D’Amours report had proposed a five-year plan to correct the situation.
Following testimony at the National Assembly on the D'Amour Report a consensus developed on the need for immediate action.
Maltais is proposing a two-year plan starting with forums from January to the end of April at which employer and employee associations can discuss solutions face to face and make recommendations. The purpose of the forums is to establish a framework for negotiations and criteria that Québec’s labour relations board can apply to resolve differences.
“I think we have gone farther than I thought we could,” Maltais said.
Elements of the plan include:
- legislation to be introduced in the the Spring (April or May) setting out the parameters of the reform
- a second bill incorporating the recommendations of the discussion forums in 2014
- guidelines calling on employees and employers to share pension costs 50-50
- six-month period of negotiations
- failing agreement, another six months allotted for conciliation
- failing a deal during conciliation the two sides will go to the labour relations board, which has the power to impose a settlement
Maltais is focused on three types of pension plans: private sector, municipalities and universities.
Federation of Labour (FTQ) welcomes Action Plan
"We have always said that it is at the bargaining table this thorny issue should be resolved and the Minister has sent a clear signal to all parties, "said the Secretary General of the FTQ, Serge Cadieux.
"We understand that they have two years to reach a satisfactory agreement for both sides. Moreover, this process will be subject to the guidelines defined by the joint committees in the private, municipal and university."
"For our organizations, a negotiated settlement is better than a forced agreement" added FTQ union leaders FTQ.
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