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Wes Sheridan meets CUPE to talk pension reform

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and the Canadian Union of Public Employees met Monday to discuss pension reform.

Tense day of talks reaches no compromise

Wes Sheridan said the plan needs to change. (CBC)

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and the Canadian Union of Public Employees met Monday to discuss pension reform.

Sheridan introduced legislation to change the public service pension plan last week. The changes will reduce future benefits for about 10,000 unionized employees and take away indexing, which automatically ties benefits to costs of living.

“They know full well that I’m trying to find the very best solution and they have the same interest at heart. We had a really good discussion about how that will happen,” Sheridan said.

CUPE represents 1,000 members and it, along with the Union of Public Sector Employees, has proposed an alternative. That plan would maintain benefits for members and give the unions equal trusteeship or management over the pension funds and how they're invested.

“Well, on the big issues of joint trusteeship and the alternative proposal, it doesn't appear that the minister is wavering in that direction, although he did talk about some governance model discussions after they implement their plan,” said Bill McKinnon of CUPE.

Parental leave won't be affected

Sheridan made one clarification Monday. Under government's proposal those who take parental leave won't see their benefits affected.

Mark Janson, CUPE's national pension expert, said they have a prudent and tested model in Canada.

"Government wants to be sharing more risks; plan members are proposing to do that. But we're only prepared to take that risk if we have a proportional say in how decisions are made within this plan," he said.

The new legislation has a section that gives immunity from legal action and that's raising a lot of questions.

“We think it’s as much to protect government against liabilities concerns about the new plan. If you didn't, you wouldn't need this,” McKinnon said.

The pension legislation will be debated this week. Sheridan appears determined to bring it into law.

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