Nfld. & Labrador

NAPE 'shocked and appalled' by MHA pension decision

The union that represents most public servants in Newfoundland and Labrador says politicians talk about cutting costs, but aren't willing to do their bit.

Union says politicians not willing to make sacrifices expected of workers

The MHA for Harbour Grace-Port de Grave, Pam Parsons, signs the oath of office after being elected in November 2015. She is one of 20 rookie MHAs who could benefit from the pension decision. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees says members of the House of Assembly are all "bluster" and "double-speak" when it comes to cost cutting.

NAPE president Jerry Earle said Thursday that he was "shocked and appalled" by the decision to protect the pension plan for 20 newly-elected MHAs, despite the recommendation of an independent review committee.

The decision means that rookie MHAs elected in November 2015 will be grandfathered into the existing pension plan, instead of being moved into a revised plan that includes a longer qualifying time and a minimum age of 60 to draw a pension.

It comes with a cost of $3.6 million, a price tag that rankles Earle who said his members have been asked to raise their retirement age and pay more premiums to make the Public Service Pension Plan more stable.

'Bluster and double speak'

"Is this one of the difficult decisions that the government said would have to be made in tough times?" asked Earle in a news release.

"Our members have made sacrifices. Clearly, the MHAs, despite all their bluster and double speak on MHA pension reform during the election, aren't willing to do the same."

NAPE president Jerry Earle says MHAs should make the same sacrifices they have asked of union members and the public. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

On Thursday, MHA Andrew Parsons — a member of the House of Assembly management commission — attempted to defend the pension decision from criticism that MHAs were setting one standard for themselves and another for the public sector.

"There's a difference between running for election and running for this office and being a part of just about anything else," he said. 

He also said the process for the MHA pension changes and the public sector pension changes were quite different.

Andrew Parsons said the process for the MHA pension changes and the public sector pension changes were quite different. (CBC)

"I don't know if the comparison is exactly the same."

Parsons insisted the pension protection was a move by the management commission, not the government. He said some MHAs expressed concern that their pension deal would be modified midway through their careers.

PC leader Paul Davis, who is also a member of the commission, said he feels the work on MHA compensation is not yet complete.

Multi-millions?

The MHA pension change will cost the government an estimated $3.6-million. But it depends on how many MHAs get re-elected and serve long enough to claim the benefit.

"The $3.6-million you're talking about is absolutely a theoretical number right now," Parsons says.  "The fact is, in many cases, who knows if these people get pensions...It could theoretically also be zero." 

Earle said $3.6 million estimate is about twice the amount saved by cutting 24-hour snow clearing on the province's highways.

"It is absolutely incredible that the government had the gall to pull this off at a time when the people of the province have suffered through regressive tax increases and cuts to public services and when our members have been through layoffs, cutbacks, and office closures," he said in a news release.

"This sort of decision only serves to breed cynicism about the political process in the public."

In a reference to upcoming contract negotiations between NAPE and Treasury Board, Earle said "we will not soon forget this decision." 

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