REGINA – In the latest development in the civic pension dispute, the City of Regina is sending a message to the unions: Come back to the bargaining table.
Last month, Saskatchewan’s Deputy Superintendent of Pensions of the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) announced it was considering cancelling the plan if the two sides fail to agree on a new contract by the end of the year.
Regina’s civic plan is short $240-million and according to Mayor Michael Fougere, taxpayers should be concerned.
“In the case of the City of Regina, we have anywhere from $75 to $80 million that must be paid off in short order and the taxpayers would have to bear that burden,” said Fougere.
Last June, the employers and the unions came to a much-publicized agreement to fix the debt problem. At the time it was called a “successful negotiation”. However, the two sides pointed out more work needed to be done to meet the provincial standards, which are enforced by the superintendent.
Further negotiations never got done, which now leaves the two sides in the middle of a ‘he said, she said’ battle.
“We’ve asked for at least four meetings, four different dates for meeting, since June to begin those discussions. We’ve asked to confirm dates by the end of August 1, and still there is no response to those dates which we have suggested,” said Fougere.
“It’s not a matter of refusal,” said Janet Craig, a Regina Public Library retiree and member of the pension and benefits committee. “People work, people have summer schedules. We have to regroup ourselves and we would like to honour our deal.”
According to the city, the superintendent’s office has asked the two sides to address three major issues. First, changes are nearly impossible to make as both sides have veto power; second, younger employees are making up the pension shortfall for older employees; and third, contribution rates are simply too high.
“From attraction of new employees and retaining new employees, this is definitely what the city and all employers in the plan have an issue with,” said City Manager Glen Davies.
However until a deal is reached, pensioners are left in limbo.
“They’re feeling quite angry at the moment,” said Craig.
The civic pension plan impacts some 4,000 employees and 3,000 retirees.
The employers represented include the City of Regina, the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant, Regina Board of Education, Regina Public Library, and the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region.