Pension reforms positive but further improvements still needed, CAW President says
TORONTO - The slate of provincial pension reforms released August 24, 2010 by Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is a positive step in securing retirement income for workers, but falls short of instituting the full package of reforms needed to sufficiently strengthen the province's pension system, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
"These reforms are a clear acknowledgement that our pension framework is in desperate need of repair," Lewenza said.
The union welcomes most of Minister Duncan's proposals to enact stricter funding regulations and improve the funding structure of the provincial pension guarantee fund. As well, Lewenza said he is encouraged to hear the Minister reiterate support for expanding the Canada Pension Plan.
However, Lewenza expressed disappointment that the province failed to extend the level of benefit coverage under the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund as recommended by the Expert Commission on Pensions headed by Harry Arthurs. The current monthly benefit maximum is set at $1,000, while the Arthurs Commission recommended it increase to $2,500.
"The events of recent years have shown everyone how important this guarantee fund is for Ontario's pensioners as a safety net. In tough economic times, it's clear that current benefit levels are simply inadequate."
Lewenza also expressed concern over the government's conditions under its proposal to provide solvency funding relief for certain public sector employers, particularly universities. The union is concerned that this proposal could be used as a pretext for some universities to attempt to avoid bargaining with their unionized employees over pension issues.
As part of the Retirement Security for Everyone campaign, the CAW continues to press for an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan, increases to Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement as well as greater access for workers to pension insurance.