Hearings over Municipal Pension Reform Underway in Quebec as Protests Continue

By Richer, Jocelyne; Bergeron, Patrice | The Canadian Press, August 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

Hearings over Municipal Pension Reform Underway in Quebec as Protests Continue


Richer, Jocelyne, Bergeron, Patrice, The Canadian Press


Pension reform hearings begin in Quebec

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QUEBEC - The great divide between municipalities and their workers over the government's proposed pension reforms were on display as hearings began at the legislature on Wednesday.

The mayors of the province's two largest cities reaffirmed their support for the government's proposed overhaul of the pension system while unions made clear their categorical rejection of a plan that would see them shoulder more of the financial burden of their pensions.

All this took place as worker demonstrations continued right across the province.

The mayors of Quebec City and Montreal spoke out in favour of the planned changes on Wednesday.

"Don't deviate from your route," Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said on the first of five days worth of hearings, running until next Tuesday.

Labeaume said the pension plan as it stands is "immoral and unsustainable." He warned that if nothing changes, it'll be the taxpayers who will end up footing the bill.

For his part, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said restructuring the pension plans has become "inevitable," noting they will account for 12 per cent of the city's budget this year alone.

"It's urgent to act," Coderre said, confident that a deal can be reached and appealing to the "good faith" of unions he says he's ready to work with.

The pension deficits are largest in the province's two major cities, which account for much of the municipal workforce.

The draft of the controversial Bill 3 calls for a 50-50 equal sharing of future costs and deficits between municipalities and unionized employees. Negotiations would be fixed at 18 months after which an arbitrator would resolve the issue.

It also proposes freezing the automatic indexation of pensions for about 20,000 workers already retired.

The government claims the collective deficit of the plans fall between $4 billion and $5 billion and suggests the unions and pensioners should be on the hook for some of that amount.

Unions have said municipalities are trying to put them on the hook for deficits they allowed to spiral out of control.

Coderre says the 50-50 split, in line with private employer pension plans, is key. …

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