Pension plans and “job blockers”

“I find it disturbing that a person would collect fees as well as retirement security monies. They become “job blockers,” preventing others from moving up the ladder, and youngsters from getting their first job.”

The above is taken from a letter I sent to the Toronto Sun which was published yesterday.  The letter was sent by email around noon the day prior to publication, and while the subject matter is of interest in its own right, the publication is a useful example of how innovation and imagination can make the difference between failure and success.

The letter can be seen by going to the link below, but here is the wording of the original submission for comparison purposes.

“Re “TRCA bigwig collects public pension while still acting as CEO” (Sue-Ann Levy April 10th), there are pros and cons to an OMERS member “retiring” and being taken back on a contract basis.  Firstly, OMERS is funded by payroll deductions matched by employer contributions; this is not “public money” we are talking about, it is money invested by the employee for their retirement security.  The term “double-dipping” is inaccurate.

“I have been receiving an OMERS pension since I turned 55 in 2001, and have received far more money from it than I ever put in, but that’s just the luck of the draw.

“On the other hand, the object is to enable employees to leave the workforce and be able to enjoy their declining years without having to work.  As I understood it years ago, OMERS retirees were not prevented from working, but were not allowed to work for employers enrolled in the OMERS plan.  Perhaps being re-hired as a “contractor” is a clever ploy to defeat that…

“I personally find it disturbing that a person would collect fees as well as  their retirement security monies.  They are “job blockers”, and should not be allowed to “retire” until they actually stop working, or go elsewhere.  That way, others can move up the ladder, and a youngster somewhere can get their first job.”

The issue itself is important, in that a highly-paid executive working for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority retired, and was promptly re-hired in essentially the same position, as as “contractor”.

Thus that person now receives his full pension, plus the equivalent of his old salary, for a total in the region of one-third of a million dollars a year.

There are several distasteful aspects to this matter, which I discussed in my letter to the Toronto Sun.

As far as the letter being published rather than rejected, I find it significant that although I referred to a specific column written on the issue by Sue-Ann Levy, that was changed to a different column she had written on the same subject.  I had put some thought to which of her columns to refer to, and obviously picked the wrong one… but it doesn’t really matter, as the editor liked the letter enough to examine and change that herself.

While drafting the letter, I thought about youngsters being prevented from getting a job, and the term “bed blockers” came to mind.  We have many such patients in our local hospital, people who need long-term care but have to be kept in hospital as there is no suitable facility for them.  In fact, the hospital is laying off a substantial number of nurses, an atrocious move which may well see some of them moving down to the States and being lost to us.

Anyway, I thought of using the term “job blockers” as an attention-getting device, and sure enough, it was used as the heading for the letter.

It also seems to be the only letter published that day to attract any comments.  You can see them by scrolling down in the link below, and while the odd comment is worthwhile, most are full of irrational hatred and jealousy of public employees, who are considered to be lazy, pampered, and overpaid.

I gave up writing comments in the papers some years ago, but as the first comment to appear was highly critical and referred to me by name, I felt it necessary to respond.  I’m not sure that was a bright idea, it can be very exasperating trying to debate with persons whose minds are already made up…

I am posting this as it might be helpful to would-be letter writers, and might inspire people who feel strongly on various issues to try their hand at getting their thoughts out to the public.

Jeff Goodall.

You can see the Toronto Sun letters for April 11th here.

You can read my post “Some thoughts on writing letters to the editor” here.

You can contact the Ontario Minister of the Environment, who is responsible for the TRCA, here.  His name is David Orazietti.

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