THE BROKEN PENSION PROMISE

A REPORT TO CONVENTION 2011





PREPARED BY David Peters







FORWARD


Since the passing into Law of the 2010 Financial Measures Act (FMA), the NSGREA Executive has attended many Regional meetings around the Province. The discussions have been centered around the pension issue.

What happened to our pension promise? Why and how did it happen? What has NSGREA done about it?

This report is intended to inform members of all the information we have available. There have been a large number of discussions about the Public Service Superannuation Plan that we were not invited to attend. We have had to read between the lines, interpret from what we do know, and give our opinion about what has and can happen.


What happened to our Pension Promise?

In the simplest terms, the pension promised to us on our retirement was BROKEN.

We all worked under terms and conditions that included a Defined Benefit Pension Plan. Our plan is no longer one of those. No one can tell you with any degree of certainty what your pension will be after 5 years. YES! You could possibly receive less than today.


The Financial Measurers Act 2010

This action by the NDP Dexter Government has ruined the PSSP. They have broken the employers’ promise to us. Prior to this, the law had always been that whatever promise “you went out the door with” could not be altered. Established exceptions to this would be Bankruptcy where the employee, including retirees might opt for reductions to “save” the business, or a company simply ceasing to operate and not enough money to pay. Neither of these scenarios applies to the Province of Nova Scotia.


INDEXING

The immediate change for retirees was to the indexing. For the first 5 years (2010 – 2014) indexing is fixed at 1.25% regardless of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

If no changes were made, we would have received a 2% increase in January 2011, a difference of 0.75%. On average “only” a couple of hundred dollars per retiree. But this is not forever. So, it adds up after awhile. This is not what you worked for or what you were told prior to retirement. THE PROMISE WAS BROKEN!

This year, we will receive another 1.25% increase but it appears the CPI will be around 2.75%. So, then we will have lost 2.25% to inflation over the first two years. Now, we are starting to lose hundreds of dollars on average. Once we have lost 6% to inflation, we will be losing approx. $100.00 per month on average ($18,000.00 pension). Was this scenario ever thought of when you made your retirement decision? Did you factor this into your decision? THE PROMISE WAS BROKEN!

We could easily lose 10% of the value of our pensions over the first 5 years. After that, there is no guarantee of any indexing.

However, if the funded status of the plan is over 110%, then some indexing will be paid. The amount is not specified, nor does it provide for any “catch‐up” for already lost pension income. Those decisions will be made by the TRUSTEE(S) at the time.

In the 1970’s, inflation rose more than 60%. A couple of years back then, it was double‐digit inflation, back to back. An employee who had retired in 1970 at a Director’s level wrote in the 70’s, “I am now living in poverty, please try to do something about protecting our purchasing power”. There wasn’t any indexing back then. This could be us as well. THE PROMISE WAS BROKEN!


See EXHIBIT “A” which shows the lost income because of the changes to indexing.


Other Effects on Pension

As retirees, we have lost our opportunities to make up for this unanticipated shortfall in present and future income. It is too late for us to decide to work longer or save more to supplement our non‐indexed pension.

But, it gets even worse. The FMA 2010 also states that if after the end of each 5 years, the pension fund is less than 90% funded, then the Trustee(s) are required to make further cuts, increase contribution, or any combination of both, to put the fund back to 100% funded status. There are no limitations. So, it is possible, under these new changes, to cut our base pension. There are no other benefits that could produce the necessary dollars to make up a large shortfall in the review year.

It could happen by changing the value of each year of service to say 1.9%, l.75%, l.5% or whatever. There are no limitations. But the Law does say that the Trustee(s) must take necessary actions to correct the under‐funding.

We cannot find another example of a plan that has had such an upheaval of change with no guarantees of any kind. Thanks to the Dexter NDP Government. And we have been told that the changes that have been made are not up for discussion. PERIOD.

And sadly, it gets even worse. There are also provisions in the FMA 2010 that prevent any legal actions being taken as a result of the changes to the PSSP. If, they didn’t do anything wrong, then why would they need such a clause? They knew what they were doing was wrong and how they did it was otherwise illegal. That is the only interpretation that can be made.

The shame of it all. The sole Trustee, the Minister of Finance, Graham Steele, broke most of the responsibilities that a Trustee is required to follow. Graham Steele is a lawyer. Other members of the NDP Caucus are legally trained as well.

The PSSP is now the worst public sector plan in Canada. It is no longer a Defined Benefit Plan. No one can define what the benefits will be after each 5 year period. At best, it is a 5 year variable plan with no guarantees. That’s all the respect we get from this Government.

For 70 years the PSSP was a 50‐50 cost shared plan. Taxpayers never had to contribute any extra money to the plan. In fact, the various employers got a 2 year contribution holiday in 1997‐1998.

When it came to getting rid of the unfunded liability, they decided that it would be a 33%‐67%. The government put in $536 million and reduced pension benefits by more than $1 billion dollars ‐ Not a 50‐50 split.

Now as taxpayers, we are sharing paying interest on the $536 Million. Prior to this, there wasn’t any interest being paid on the unfunded liability. It was a paper figure only. The unfunded figure was based on a very conservative set of assumptions and very aggressive mortality tables.

It must be noted that the fund has been in a more serious under funded position and fully recovered. The Government must have had ulterior motives this time.


Why did it happen?

In our view, all this happened because of a very disrespectful, dishonest, deceitful, unjust Government whose knowledge of pension plans and their issues are sadly lacking. What else can we feel and think? There wasn’t any discussion.

It did not have to happen. In November, 2009, this same government gave 167 other defined benefit plans in the Province 10 years to make up their under funding. But within 6 months of being elected, Graham Steele decided to take away our indexing immediately and make other potentially devastating changes. We believe they reacted solely on an Actuarial Report without the ability to understand its full meaning.

For a number of years, the Dept. of Finance has been intent on getting rid of the indexing. It appears they lacked skilled leadership in the area of pensions. It appears they were managing the plan solely on the Actuarial Annual Reports, when this is not the Actuarial Annual Reports’ sole purpose.

I had been a member of the Minister’s Advisory Committee for the last 20 years and never was it discussed to apply any changes to retirees. So, imagine the surprise when I received the Minister’s letter purporting to save the Pension Plan with the cuts to benefits and the only explanation was, “it had to be done”. I immediately resigned by phone call to the Minister’s Office. Two weeks later the Minister abolished the committee. It was obvious that my input into any discussion was not welcomed.

Now management will not have to deal with any under‐funding and this makes their jobs much easier and less stressful. Maybe the Minister of Finance was not fully informed.

The report the Government reacted on could not possibly have been at a worse time. It was a reflection of the Financial Global crisis which produced a large loss in the value of assets, second only to the Great Depression, and governments reacted by setting interest rates at historical lows. Every pension plan was devastated.


How did it happen?

It happened behind our backs. There was absolutely no discussion with any retirees. It was shrouded in secrecy, so secret, that union representatives had to sign letters of confidentiality and could not even discuss it with their members. It is very curious to note that three of the five labour representatives on the Minister’s Advisory Committee were in on the discussions with Government while two were excluded. Those excluded being two retirees; myself and Jim Bacich. No one was there to voice the interests and concerns of retirees. Our pension promises were being discussed and our fate decided upon without the voice of the 12,000 retirees. The President of NSGEU stated publicly that the union did not represent retirees.

It appears the Minister of Finance made every effort to exclude retirees from any input. This is unprecedented by any employer in the history of Canada.

All of organized labour rolled over on this one.

So, we have no knowledge of how the discussions transpired. We don’t know if deals were made or what was said about employees in receipt of a pension. We do know that Superannuation, by law, is not negotiable. The only one with the authority and the power to make change is the government.


What has NSGREA done?

NSGREA immediately got legal advice which basically said that governments have the power to pass laws that take away employees vested right to legal action as a result of any of the changes. So, for the time being, there doesn’t appear to be any legal resolution.

In order to make any changes, it will take legislative change. That means political action. NSGREA has had meetings with the Liberal and Conservative Caucuses. Both expressed sympathy with our concerns and said the changes should not have applied retroactively. But, they did not commit to make changes. More meetings will be held with both.

Some regions have invited MLA’s to meetings to inform them of our concerns, not only what happened but, equally important, how it happened.


What Can Members Do?

NSGREA members should become as active as possible in attending Regional Meetings, talking to MLA’s and supporting actions the Executive will decide upon.

We have to do something to protect our future income. If not, we could be devastated by future actions. As of now, we don’t know what our pension will be in 2015.

The solution is political action. Get more involved now.

There is hope in the future. When working employees realize the uncertain retirement benefits they are working for, they will join our fight. It would be interesting to attend a pre‐retirement course now to hear the spin and explanation.

Two very respected members of NSGREA reported to me that Premier Darrell Dexter told them that retirees were consulted about the changes. In fact his words were “numerous meetings were held with retirees”. This is a lie and couldn’t be further from the truth. Either he is lying or he was lied to. You decide.

We have already paid for our pensions. The pension was over funded when many of us retired; by as much as 123% funded. Now we are being forced to pay again for future pensions.


OUR PENSION PROMISE IS BROKEN!!!!




EXHIBIT “A”

– Should Receive
B – Will Receive
C – The Amount the Pension will be Less

Annual Pension

Amount

Year 1

Year 2

Year 5

Year 10

10,000

A
B
C

10,200
10,125
75

10,481
10,252
229

11,369
10,641
728

13,020
10,641
2,379

18,000

A
B
C

18,360
18,225
135

18,865
18,453
412

20,464
19,154
1,310

23,436
19,154
4,282

25,000

A
B
C

25,500
25,312
188

26,201
25,628
573

28,423
26,603
1,820

32,550
26,603
5,947

30,000

A
B
C

30,600
30,375
225

31,441
30,755
686

34,107
31,922
2,185

39,061
31,922
7,139

40,000

A
B
C

40,800
40,500
300

41,924
41,008
916

45,476
42,564
2,912

52,080
42,564
9,516




Assumptions:        (1) No indexing will be paid from 2015  to  2019.
                                  (2)The Consumer Price Index will increase by an average of 2.75% per year from 2011  to  2019.


Pension (Received in 2010)Total $’s loss over 10 years

$10,000

$18,000

$25,000

$30,000

$40,000

 $10,481

 $18,866

 $26,203

 $31,443

 $41,924

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