Government meets behind closed doors while making decisions about worker-funded pensions without negotiation
Edmonton – The elected leaders of some of Alberta’s largest unions staged a mock negotiating session in -25°C weather today to illustrate their point that the Redford government has refused to negotiate changes to provincial pension plans with people who actually contribute to those plans.
The mock negotiating session was held outside Government House where provincial Finance Minister Doug Horner was conducting a behind-closed-doors session with provincially-appointed pension board trustees to tell them about the government’s latest plans for pension changes.
“We’ve been asking for face-to-face negotiations for months now,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “But the Redford government seems determined to dictate, not negotiate.”
“They’re taking the same bullying, ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ approach to pensions that they took with Bill 46 and wage settlements for public-sector workers. It’s an approach that poisons relationships and leads to bad outcomes. It’s also an approach that breaks the law. These guys clearly have learned nothing from the court injunction imposed on Bill 46.”
“The frigid temperatures are appropriate because the Minister and the government have really left public sector workers and retirees out in the cold,” United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith said.
Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Elisabeth Ballermann pointed out that the Labour Coalition on Pensions, a coalition of unions with about 150,000 members in the Local Authorities Pension Plan, has sent letters to the Minister asking for formal negotiations, all to no avail.
“To date, we’ve had no reply to our requests,” she said. “The minister won’t even meet with us, let alone negotiate. How can he justify changing something as important as a pension plan without negotiating with the representatives of the people who pay the freight and who will have to live with the consequences?”
Marle Roberts, president of the Canadians Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division), pointed out that the unions made it clear in December that they were willing to negotiate changes to address the government’s stated goal of improving pension sustainability.
“We put together a list of costed proposals that we think would go a long way to improving the long-term sustainability of the plan. But instead of looking at our proposals and negotiating, the government has chosen to impose a settlement. In September, we were disappointed; in January we were frustrated; now we’re outraged by the government’s refusal to talk.”
At the mock negotiating session, the labour leaders distributed copies of the letters they had sent to Horner asking for negotiations and copies of the negotiating document they had sent to the government outlining the labour movement’s proposals for reform – proposals that could have been discussed in negotiations, if any had taken place.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org