CUPE Boss Eyes Pension Fund

“The vast power that such control (over the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) will give to the doctrinaire socialists, communists and assorted revolutionaries in the labour movement is absolutely frightening. Labour has never hesitated to use its power to strike as an instrument of economic warfare against our free enterprise system, and now they want the power to influence and distort the investment market, with all the consequences which would flow from that.” 

Jeff Goodall, “Cover Story”: Toronto Free Press, December 14th, 1999.

(Jeff Goodall is a TFP columnist and a dues paying member of CUPE Local 79).

The vast majority of municipal, firefighting, police and other public employees in Ontario are unaware that those elected officials of their unions and associations who are booked off to work full-time on union business, very often participate in the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) at the rate of pay they receive while on the union payroll, rather than at the usually much lower wage-rate for their regular jobs. Few full-time public sector union positions pay less than $65,000 a year plus perks, and some pay well over $100,000. As pension payments are based on the “best five years” of earnings, just two or three terms of elected office can quite literally double or triple the monthly pension received by these elected officers when they retire, with the “employer’s” share of the premiums coming out of our dues payments.

Of course, this requires the employer’s co-operation and agreement, as only the employer can remit contributions to OMERS to be credited to the individual concerned. But, as those elected to full-time office are booked off work without cost to the employer, i.e. with the unions picking up all expenses including the employer’s share of pension premiums, it is no skin off the employers’ nose to go along with these gold-plated Cadillac pension plan arrangements. Indeed, the less charitable among us may even think that where those booked off will be facing the employer across the bargaining table, there could well be a definite advantage…the old City of Toronto and the Metropolitan governments had such an agreement with CUPE Local 79, and this arrangement continues with the “new” City of Toronto. CUPE Ontario officials, such as Brian O’Keefe, who is on a leave of absence from the City, can benefit in this way. It seems highly unlikely that those on leave from other employers, such as CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan, are being left out in the cold. I therefore suggest that you consider the following, in light of the richly-inflated pensions being provided at our expense:

In an article in The Toronto Sun dated November 24 1999, Sid Ryan made a pitch for member control of those pension plans not already administered by unions, specifically OMERS. He had a variety of dubious complaints, seemingly designed more to instill fear into OMERS’ members than for accuracy, including alleged “poverty-line” pensions and “grim prospects” for retirees. In a rebuttal published on Dec. 1, Susan O’Gorman, a York Region public health nurse, who is the Chair of the OMERS Board, said in part: “I’m confused…My board includes a pensioner, two CUPE members, police and fire representatives, a mayor, a reeve, two municipal officials, a school board representative and a representative of local electric utilities. Since the jointly managed board is made up of six members who represent workers and six members who represent employers, as well as one representative from the province of Ontario, plan members always have a say in how the investments are managed and the plan is administered.”

In my opinion, Ryan’s complaints are just a smoke-screen to conceal his true intentions. A glimpse of what may well be the real game plan comes from his slogan “If we pay, we want a say”, and his demand that the investments of work-place pension plans must be “ethical”. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure out whose ethics these will be, or whose political agenda will be served if the unions gain control over multi-billion dollar plans such as OMERS, which is the third largest in the country. And while Ryan says that employers who contribute to such plans should also have a say, how long will it be before he claims that the employers’ contributions actually belong to the plan members in whose names they are being made? There is no doubt in my mind that given such power, Ryan would have the board members elected by delegates to conventions, in much the same way that he himself is elected; the rank-and-file would never have any direct input.

Ryan’s argument in print

In his Sun article, Ryan shows that he knows full well what he is aiming at in this telling paragraph: “There is more than $500 billion in assets in union pension funds in Canada. The assets are the country’ largest pool of investment capital, next to the banks. And the people who built that financial muscle should directly benefit from it.”

In the fall 1991 issue of OurSpace, the official publication of CUPE Ontario, Sid Ryan says in a signed editorial, “We need to mount a campaign to force the OMERS’ money managers and the Ontario government to allow plan members to have a truly joint trusteed pension plan. Our allies in the labour movement have just joined us in that fight. I’m now asking all Ontario CUPE members to make joint trusteeship of OMERS their fight to ensure we don’t condemn our brothers and sisters earning moderate wages to a life of poverty.”

The vast power that such control will give to the doctrinaire socialists, communists and assorted revolutionaries in the labour movement is absolutely frightening. Labour has never hesitated to use its power to strike as an instrument of economic warfare against our free enterprise system, and now they want the power to influence and distort the investment market, with all the consequences which would flow from that. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that the NDP never, ever regains control of Ontario, as they would very likely give Ryan that power.

Union-administered pensions

Equally frightening is the way in which retirees who belong to union-administered pension plans are already being treated in British Columbia. In the June 23, 1999 issue of Toronto Free Press, I wrote about retired Burnaby sheet metal worker David Lord, who paid into his union-administered pension plan for 30 years, only to have his benefits arbitrarily cut off when he set up a non-union company and continued to work in the trade. The British Columbia Pension Standards Branch ordered his pension re-instated, but the unions cashed in on their political IOU’s, and had the NDP government agree to amend the pension laws in order to permit those unions administering pension plans to take away the benefits of up to ten thousand union workers with pensions who took early retirement and then decided to work in the non-union sector.

Putting Sid Ryan and the labour movement in charge of our pensions is akin to putting the rabbits in charge of the lettuce; a guarantee of utter disaster for those of us who have paid long and hard towards our future financial security. Keep your greedy paws away from my pension, Sid- I like OMERS just the way it is.

See original here.

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