Public union leaders challenge Alberta to address “the real retirement crisis”

Edmonton – Expressing their grave concern about the still-unknown contents of the Alberta government’s pension policy announcement tomorrow, 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.

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 president Elisabeth Ballermann, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith, United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith and Canadian Union of Public Employees 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 who don’t have workplace pensions,” said their statement (see attached), read by AFL president Gil McGowan in front of Government House, where Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner will make his pension announcement tomorrow.

“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.”

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 the 1990s.”

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 PSPP is currently $12,414 and the average pension paid to members of the 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.”

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 – have 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, Monday, September 16 at Government House.

AFL Backgrounder: Labour Coalition on Pensions Backgrounder



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail
[email protected]

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