Bill C-27 and the Threat to Your Pension

egg-in-basketAhhhhh, retirement! You’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever you’ve been dreaming of for years. You’ve planned, you’ve saved and made sure you had your financial ducks in a row before your last day on the job. Thankful for work that offered you a rock solid pension, a deferred payment plan for your post-work years, you’ve contributed for a long time.

Well fasten your seatbelt, friend. Thanks to a new bill introduced by Trudeau’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, your defined pension plan is not safe… even if you’ve been retired & collecting your pension for years.

Bill C-27 promotes the establishment of target benefit plans – a scheme far inferior to defined benefit plans. If passed, the legislation will permit employers to buy back your defined benefit plan in favour of less expensive (for them) annuities, so long as they have approval from the retiree. And while it seems unlikely that a retiree would agree, if the conditions were right and the pressure was strong, it could happen.

Bill C-27 looms as a real game-changer for Canada’s retirees and workers. For some, the pensions they worked for throughout their working lives are at risk of being fundamentally changed, even after the fact.

I urge you to learn more about Bill C-27. We’ll be in communication with MP Larry Bagnell to ask him to take a stand for all workers, especially those in private federally regulated industries. Many of our members in Yukon stand to be affected by this change, if it goes ahead.

Yukoners from the following Locals will be impacted by this legislative change:

  • Yukon Arts Centre      
  • Yukon College
  • Air North Flight Attendants  
  • Yukon Energy Corporation
  • Yukon Hospital Corporation    
  • Town of Watson Lake
  • City of Dawson            
  • City of Whitehorse

We believe that once the shift is made from defined benefit to target benefit plans, there will be no going back. Few employers will see any need to maintain or sign on to the far superior defined benefit plans.  The erosion of retirement security for Canada’s seniors continues, and with it the erosion of worker rights and the hopes of our young workers for a secure future.  

The Liberal Party did not campaign on allowing employers to pressure workers and retirees into “surrendering” their pension rights. In fact, it signaled to voters  that it would protect these rights. The government has no mandate for this extreme legislation.  

Already, beleaguered workers have begun to shrug their shoulders and say things like “well, we’re just lucky to have any pension at all”. WHY? Pensions are supported by the employer and the employee… part of a contracted benefit package that includes a portion of salary held for later. It’s not a gift, it’s not a luxury and it’s not something you should expect to lose. Solidarity is needed if we hope to defend pensions; we should not be afraid we’ll lose it all if we object.

Workers need to stand together against these constant erosions of your rights now, if we hope to shore up any hope of pension security for young workers at the beginning of their work lives.

If the legislation passes, the precedent will be set and other employers can be expected to quickly follow suit. Join us in calling on Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell to help stop this bill; email Larry.Bagnell@parl.gc.ca.

In solidarity,
steve-geick-signature-dec-2011

Steve Geick, President
Yukon Employees’ Union

Isn’t it Time for Gender Free Union Solidarity?

gender freeDear Friends & Comrades:

For years, the terms Brother and Sister have been used by unionists to call together our community. Continue reading

May 1, International Workers’ Day

Used with permission by Ricardo Levins Morales, artist.

May Day is celebrated by millions around the world as International Worker’s Day. A national public holiday in many countries, it has come to be known as the original Labour Day and honours both the contributions of workers and the achievements of the Labour movement.

The origins of May Day are bloody. On May 1 1886, workers in Chicago went on strike en masse, demanding an eight-hour work day. In the plans for 2 years, workers were ready to march. Up to 80,000 joined a parade up Michigan Avenue, arm-in-arm carrying union banners demanding shorter hours of work, higher pay  and an end to child labour.

A May 4th demonstration turned violent when a bomb exploded in the ranks of police on hand to disperse the crowd. Police opened fire on the crowd and in their panic many shot their own men:  67 policemen were wounded and 7 died, though only one as a result of the bomb blast. Four workers died that night and many more were injured.

Martial law was declared and labour leaders were rounded up and jailed across the US. In Chicago, four labour activists were tried & hanged for their  roles in the Haymarket Affair. Three more were pardoned shortly after, and the unjust judicial process was condemned by the Governor.

Today, May Day is celebrated as Labour Day in almost every industrial nation. During the 1990’s, the Chinese Government even created a week long holiday to honour its workers, though the holiday was restored to 1 day in 2008.

Despite its American origins, Labour Day is not observed on May 1 in the United States.  Concerned by the political threat of a holiday conceived by socialists & anarchists, Grover Cleveland pronounced the first Monday of September as the official Labour Day in 1894. During the “Red Scare” years of the 1950’s, Eisenhower went further and declared May 1 “Loyalty Day” in America.

In Canada, a September Labour Day was also declared a holiday by Prime Minister John Thompson in 1894, bowing to pressure from the working class. Canadian Labour organizations do honour the day however, and we wish you  a very happy International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2016.

Originally published in the YEU Newsletter, April 2016

International Women’s Day 2016 #PledgeForParity

International-Womens-DayInternational Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day – observed globally, also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

IWD has been observed since the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical changes… like women in the work force! Women worked outside the home in factories, on farms, in offices, as teachers and much more. Of course they earned far less than men, no matter that their work was often exactly the same. And their work was precarious and often dangerous.

In 2016 the value of women’s work cannot be denied or debated and the issues of gender parity, equal access, and pay equity cannot be ignored. Even today, depending on where they live, *Canadian women  earn between 74¢ and 82¢ for every dollar a man earns doing work of the same value.  For indigenous women and women of colour, the wage gap is even greater. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take until 2133 for the world to entirely closes the economic gender gap.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” Gloria Steinem

Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

International Women’s Day is about celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action – both globally and at the local level. Join the international call for gender equality; do your part, take the pledge.   Add your voice  by using the hashtag #PledgeForParity      If you are in Whitehorse, make sure you pop by the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre to help them celebrate their 40th Anniversary on March 8th, and visit Yukon Women in Trades & Technology’s IWD Celebration with Yukonstruct. We’re overdue for action and we are overdue for parity.

On International Women’s Day and beyond, 
I pledge to …

Until there is true equality for women in all areas of our lives, there will be more work to do.

PledgeForParity-1

Straight Talk: Addiction & Accommodation at work.

addictDid you know that alcoholism and addiction are considered disabilities?

A seven year legal battle for two Ontario residents and a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada set a legal precedent on what constitutes a disability under Human Rights legislation. Employees who suffer from an illness or injury that restricts or limits their ability to perform their duties are considered to be “disabled” under employment law; addictions and alcoholism are considered disabilities.

Under the Yukon Human Rights Act, an employer must accommodate disabled employees – this is the “duty to accommodate”.  The right to equality for persons with disabilities is entrenched in Human Rights legislation across Canada.   If an employee suffers from an addiction they may have access to a workplace accommodation while they are recovering.

We say may because the duty to accommodate usually follows disclosure by the employee. The employee may believe they suffer from an addiction but unless this is disclosed, it’s tough for the employer to know what supports are appropriate.

An accommodation can be anything from  altered  hours of work, time off to attend counseling or treatment or even modified duties.  It may mean working in a different position or location. The intent is to reduce or eliminate the risk of further injury or illness, to meet operational needs and to allow the individual to continue working while recovery takes place.

If an employer suspects a medical condition may be affecting an employee’s performance, they have a duty to inquire. This means they may ask the employee if there are any medical restrictions or limitations, or if they have a medical condition they should be aware of.  This isn’t an invasion of your privacy just for the sake of asking; if you are asked, it likely means your employers have noticed you are struggling.

What can you do if you believe addiction is affecting your ability to carry out your duties?  Ask for help! Talk to your family or friends, consult with your family physician and tap into your employee assistance program.

If you believe you need a workplace accommodation, ask YEU for a union representative to help you talk to your supervisor.  Some employers offer financial support to attend treatment programs, follow up counseling or other rehabilitative programs.  All employers have a legal duty to accommodate an employee to the point of undue hardship.

If you’re in doubt about your responsibilities and your rights as a disabled employee or if you have any questions please contact YEU and your human resource branch. There is confidential support available and all levels can work together to help.  For your protection, it makes sense to make sure you have union support when you approach your employer; we will be with you every step of the way.

Joe Oliver’s Off Balance Budget

Joe-Oliver-Federal-Budget-Image produced with the express permission of artist Ingrid Rice, North Vancouver.

Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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