QUEBEC CITY – The Couillard government wants city workers to contribute more to their pension plans.
City pension plans are $4 billion in the hole. Blame it on market fluctuations or contribution holidays, the end result is that plans for 122,000 municipal workers in cities across Quebec have become unsustainable.
“In the past, nobody took care of those deficits and that’s the reason why we have the situation we’re trying to solve today,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau.
Moreau said he has no intention of sending the bill out to the general population; many are without pensions of their own. So he’s tabled Bill 3, a stricter version of the PQ’s Bill 79, which proposes that:
- past and future deficits be split 50-50;
- about 20,000 retirees have their indexation cancelled;
- a stabilization fund be created;
- and that parties negotiate for one year, after which an arbitrator would be called in to settle the dispute.
“If nothing is done, the problem is that young people who are beginning to work will have to pay their share of the pension plan that would go to pay the deficits that belong to the retired people,” said Moreau.
Finance Minister Carlos Leitao added, “I think unions themselves agree that the current system needs to be fixed somehow.”
But as it turns out, unions don’t agree.
“We’re going to have to double our [contributions] to the pension plan until 2020,” fumed Yves Francoeur from the Montreal Police Brotherhood. “I can tell you something, there will be no police officer who will want to come work in Montreal.”
Unions say the bill doesn’t leave any room for real negotiation; its sole purpose is to please mayors. They threatened to fight it and take to the streets.
“Right now this is a declaration of war,” said Coalition of Unions for Negotiation spokesperson Marc Ranger. “We’re going to take the next hours to sit down to look at all the possibilities.”
“It’s not taking away their right to bargain, quite the contrary,” insisted Moreau. “The idea of the whole bill is to make sure they will re-negotiate their pension plan so that it will be sustainable.”
If recent tensions are any indication, workers could soon mobilize before the bill even makes it to the parliamentary hearing stage.
© Shaw Media, 2014