Union defends public sector retirement allowances
Finance minister says retirement allowances cost $47M annually
Public sector workers in the province are asking Finance Minister Blaine Higgs not to cut their retirement allowances as the Alward government looks to reduce its budget deficit.
The payouts are one week's pay for every year worked — up to 25 years — and these allowances are paid out when provincial government employees retire. These payments are in addition to their pension benefits.
The province’s finance minister has said these retirement allowances cost $47 million annually.
Tom Mann, the executive director of the New Brunswick Union, said the allowances were created when civil servants earned less than most private sector employees.
He said the allowance was intended to "augment" pension income.
Mann said the allowances are now more generous than what's offered in the private sector but said it would be unfair to cut them.
"It's been a commitment that's been made to employees over a long time, and it's an expectation they have moving into retirement," Mann said.
Some employees have the retirement allowances in their union contracts so it would not be easy for Higgs to cut them.
Many public sector workers turned out to the finance minister’s pre-budget consultation hearings in January to defend their payouts.
"For crying out loud, don't take my retirement allowance away. I've been working too hard and too long for that one," one public servant told the finance minister in Woodstock.
But the provincial government is looking for ways to trim its massive deficit.
New Brunswick’s projected deficit is now $471.1 million after the third quarter, which is down from $545.7 million after the second quarter.
However, the projected deficit is still higher than the $448.8 million that Higgs estimated in his budget last March.
Mann's union came out on Thursday with its own series of recommendations on how Higgs can trim the budget deficit.
For example, the union advocates emulating Ontario's generic drug reform program. It contends it could result in an annual savings of about $26 million for the provincial government, while the total savings to private drug plans are estimated to be $98 million.
The union also recommends highway tolls, using a distance weight charge for commercial traffic on New Brunswick's corridor highway to help alleviate the burden on local traffic.