Montreal firefighters retire en masse to protect pensions

Eighty Montreal firefighters decided to take early retirement all at once in a surprise move late Thursday night in protest over the Liberals’ Bill 3.

Mass retirement a protest against Liberals' proposed bill to curb ballooning pension plan deficit

There are currently 454 Montreal firefighters with 25 or more years of service who are eligible for early retirement, according to the firefighters’ union. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Eighty Montreal firefighters decided to take early retirement all at once in a surprise move late Thursday night in protest over the Liberals’ Bill 3, a proposed bill designed to help Quebec municipalities manage a province-wide $4 billion pension plan deficit.

The bill — officially titled An Act to foster the financial health and sustainability of municipal defined benefit pension plans — would see municipal workers and cities evenly splitting the cost of the pension plan deficit.

Firefighters were sent a message by the union Thursday at 10 p.m. asking them to decide before midnight whether they would take early retirement.

There are currently 454 Montreal firefighters with 25 or more years of service who are eligible for early retirement, according to the firefighters’ union.

Earlier information suggested that roughly 100 firefighters had decided to retire Thursday night.

However, responding to the mass retirement tactic, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said on Friday afternoon that some firefighters had already decided to retire before this week.

He also said that no fire stations would be closing and that replacement firefighters would be hired to account for any staffing shortages.

“We have a responsibility here. Never will people's security be put into question,” Coderre said Friday. “Is there a danger for Montreal? The answer is no.”

Captains, chiefs retiring

According to article 53 of the proposed bill, workers who began to receive their pension or who had made a request to the pension plan administrator to begin receiving their pension between Jan. 1, 2014 and the presentation of this bill, on June 12, would be considered retired as of Dec. 31, 2013.

Many of the members who chose to retire are captains and chiefs.

“There will be a huge loss of experience,” said union spokesman Ronald Martin.

Martin said the new law would put too much financial pressure on the workers to make up for municipalities’ pension plan deficits, and that they would end up losing quite a lot of money.

Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau is disappointed the firefighters made their decision so quickly.

He said that even though plans to cut the deficit haven't changed, there was still time to negotiate different options.

“We won't change our mind on the target, but if they can find something that can be changed, we are open to discussion,” Moreau said.

Bill 3 text:

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