Hundreds protest P.E.I. pension reforms

Teresa Wright
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A crowd of angry union members marched up Queen Street in Charlottetown Friday evening to protest the province’s controversial pension reforms.

About 450 people took part in the demonstration, waving placards and chanting, “Our pensions, leave them alone.”

The protest was organized by the Union of Public Sector Employees – the biggest union in Prince Edward Island.

President Debbie Bovyer told the crowd the province’s changes to public sector pension plans will amount to ‘historic cuts to pensions for over 13,000 Islanders.’

“Premier Ghiz and Minister Sheridan are going to remove the guarantee on our pension during this session of the legislature, unless we can convince them otherwise.”

The premier was out of the province for a previously scheduled meeting, but Finance Minister Wes Sheridan did attend, as did several other government MLAs and cabinet ministers.

When Sheridan took to the microphone, he was drowned out with angry booing and jeering after he told the protesters his reforms are an attempt to save their pensions.

NDP Leader Mike Redmond got rousing cheers when he took to the podium.

“Minister Sheridan, you knew this was a problem in 2008 and you did nothing about it,” he said.

Retired civil servants are worried and the changes negatively impact women, Redmond said.

“The only guarantee this Liberal government has made is - after six and a half years, they have the gold plated pensions,” he said, pledging to protect public pensions in the event his party is ever voted into the legislature.

Opposition Leader Steven Myers told the crowd Sheridan has said he is making the changes to their pensions to help union members and pensioners, eliciting more scoffing from the protesters.

“He’s doing it for him, he’s doing it for his buddies because they’ve spent this province right into the ground,” Myers said.

“I urge you here tonight to not let this government off the hook. Your premier and your finance minister have misled you, they’re taking your money and they’ve taken enough from you.”

Several times during the demonstration, the crowd broke out into the chant, “Back to the table,” voicing their hope the province will renegotiate the changes before putting them into law.

After the protest, Bovyer said she was happy with the turnout and said she hopes it will make government realize union members are against the changes to their pensions.

“We want them to come back to the table, negotiate with us and get a deal that’s fair to everyone, not just the government,” she said.

“We’re hopeful until the legislation goes through.”

But Sheridan made it clear that’s not going to happen.

“This plan is solid now,” Sheridan said.

“This has become a political battle and I’m sorry that this has occurred… I understand where there concerns are, this is the livelihoods of people and that’s why I’m here to ensure these pensions are going to be here for the next 90 years.”

When asked if the changes will go ahead in spite of the hundreds of union members who voiced their concern and opposition Friday, Sheridan replied, “Absolutely.”

Organizations: Delta Hotel, Province House, Coles Building

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Proud Union member
    November 17, 2013 - 20:39

    Really people??? You want the unions to disappear?? You want gov and business to just have complete control!! WOW!! You think you make crappy wages now...lets see how you like it if WE the unions didnt fight to have fair wages...for everyone! With out weekends off....i could go on...we fight for decent wages not only for our members...but we are always pushing gov to raise the min wages!! Maybe you people who want to get rid of union should look at whats happening to places that are doing just that...unemployment is soaring..cost of living is out of control...without unions its a "race to the bottom" and everyone but big business loses!! My pension isnt going to be big...barely above the poverty line...and thats with me paying into it for over 30 years...and now Ghiz and his flunkys want to gut it?? And you people see nothing wrong with that?? SHAME ON YOU!! Just remember that when you get sick and one over "those union people" are there 24/7/365 to make sure you get the best care available!! I have worked in the health care sector for over 25 years now and we are continually asked to to more with less every year...but yet we do it...because we care...even for you who want us gone. Maybe you want private health care like the states?? You have thousands of $$$ to pay for that?? Didnt think so. Instead of supporting gov gutting our pensions...maybe YOU should educate yourself...i pay 50% of my also a tax in paying for my pension fully!!!!!!!!!

  • Heath care employee
    November 17, 2013 - 09:48

    When I agreed to work for health pei more then 20 years ago we agreed I would work in PEI for less money but I would have a pension that I would pay into. I have kept my part of the contract . When you hire an employee or agree to a job either in the private or public sector it is bad form to not pay the agreed upon arrangement after the work is being done. For example imagine if I hired a contractor for a job and than decided to only pay him or her part of the agreed upon salary. This pension is apart of the agreed upon work contact that I as a taxpayer and worker am forced to pay into. If I had of been given a choice I would of created my own pension where my money would of been managed by a professional.

  • Sean
    November 17, 2013 - 06:51

    there wont be nothing left by the time im 65im only 26 with government getting paid what they are in ottawa they need to cost cut right from the top and work there way down Members of Parliament $160,200 Prime Minister* $320,400 annually Speaker* $236,900 Leader of the Opposition* $236,900 Cabinet Minister* $236,900 Minister of State $217,700 Leaders of Other Parties $214,700 Government Whip $189,000 Opposition Whip $189,000 Other Party Whips $171,500 Parliamentary Secretaries $176,200 Chair of Standing Committee $171,500 Caucus Chair - Government $171,500 Caucus Chair - Official Opposition $171,500 Caucus Chairs - Other Parties $165,900 All members of parliament make a basic salary of $160,200 *The Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Commons, Leader of the Opposition and Cabinet Ministers also get a car allowance.

  • Bill Kays
    November 16, 2013 - 22:20

    I personally think it is nice to see people on PEI doing anything. They are normally so lazy you can't get them off of the couch, away from their computer or television.

  • Fairness
    November 16, 2013 - 22:12

    Come on people, why are you so satisfied to struggle everyday just to get by, we all deserve better wages and pension. Instead you would rather see everyone struggle snd take away what unions are trying to strive to get for all people. You should be standing with the people to demand better for you too.

  • jack
    November 16, 2013 - 10:45

    I am NO fan of Ghiz, but these unions have had their day. PS unions have been milking the taxpayers for 100 years, in their monopoly. Wake up..."you're not that valuable" !! It's time to join the real world.

    • Ryan
      November 16, 2013 - 20:23

      right on

  • Ralph Malph
    November 16, 2013 - 07:45

    The pension is unsustainable...period. Myers and Mackinnon should run away and join the circus.

  • Scott
    November 16, 2013 - 07:41

    I'm getting sick of earing the whining from the unions and it's members. I dont have a pension, the only pension I'm going to get is whatevers left of CPP, and what ever I can afford to scrape up to put into a meager RRSP. Never mind full indexing. Why in hell should my tax dollars be going to fully index public servants pensions? Too damn bad about you. Be damn thankfull you have a pension at all.

    • LCB
      November 16, 2013 - 11:32

      Scott I can understand how you feel.But many of us worked long and hard at getting an education to work these jobs.And I, for one, am making at LEAST 10 dollars an hour to live here.If I could, I would be gone. As for these pensions, none of us are going to come out on top any more.The glory days are done as far as pensions go.I think we are reacting on principle when MLA,s etc etc....people who really DO NOT DESERVE the exhorbitant pensions they receive for doing nothing. Not all government workers make loads of money and get loads of pension money.We get taxed too....and it goes to the coffers of those who don't deserve in in many cases. We all need to move to Sweden where things are fair.

  • Brandy
    November 16, 2013 - 06:23

    Pension reforms is not even in the same ball patk as the 7.5% roll back, The rollback was dirty. Pension reform needs to happen to protect our pensions, Not the taxpayers responsibility to make up the difference. I Would like to see the UPSE pension, could be very interesting. Dont follow blindly, Questions you need to ask the union, is why when we retire after paying into the Life Insurance our whole career we cant stay in it? When we retire, why are we kicked to the curb abd removed from the main Blue Cross Plan into a retiries plan that can cost anywhere $150 to $450 per monh depending on medical needs? . Would be very nice to see how their Insurance and Medical plans work. They blaim the government for taking the sick days off the casual, they were in full aggreement with it. Why its all about the money no benefit to them, they prefer us to get a raise so they get their cut, Casual got an extra 4% in lieu of sick days

  • No Surpise
    November 16, 2013 - 05:59

    This gov't just pushes through what ever they scheme up. They don't make an attempt to even appear to listen to what the people want. And, of course, Ghiz is never seen or heard on anything.

  • David
    November 16, 2013 - 03:40

    Well the real question is how much support do they have? They claim the pension changes will affect 13,000 people and they get 450 out to a protest. I have to wonder if the other 12,550 people agree with the union. Actions speak louder ten words, when there is 450 people protesting something that supposedly affects 13,000 I have to wonder just how much it does affect them. this harks back to the Plan B protests when 200 people out of 140,000 people and they said they had a majority also. I think the unions need to join the Plan B protestors and go back to school and learn basic math. While they are learning math maybe they can have Mike Redmond join them for some basic English also... the mistakes in ad the other day were appalling and show we have serious problem with English also.

    • Steve
      November 16, 2013 - 12:08

      Could it be that the majority of the other 10,000 were caring for the elderly, looking after patients at the hospitals, driving your kids home from school, teaching or tutoring, looking after an after-school program or sport, ar may at this rally working crowd control? Remember that this union and our Public service employ a lot of walks of life. If we don't find a way to keep the pensions viable, why will people continue to stay on the Island and work in these fields? Our government(s) must stop wasting money hand over fist and deal with this very real present and future problem or we will bleed people right out of public service..

  • Cb
    November 15, 2013 - 22:45

    Why don't small business owners get a guaranteed pension? We are, after all, the ones that keeps these Government workers employeed by being taxed to death.. Just wondering how I can gain this feeling of self-entitlement to a pension?

    • Really?
      November 16, 2013 - 08:39

      You do understand the difference between a business owner and an employee I hope. If a small business owner wants a pension plan they can have one. They just have to start it.

    November 15, 2013 - 19:50

    Hate to break it to Myers but Binns ran the biggest deficit ever recorded and added the most debt to the Province as a whole . Every person lost in the financial meltdown ,why should tax payers pony up to protect the civil service . Contribute more to your own pension fund ,do not ask me to donate , I have no pension and am trying just to get by never mind retire .

    • annoyed
      November 15, 2013 - 22:42

      we are not asking for anything!!!! For the the love of God do your research before you reply!!! WE pay for our pension and for the past 50 years it has been PENSION money that we as government employees have been paying into that the previous and present government has and have been distributing our pension money (that comes off our paychecks every 2 weeks) to see fit whether it be for school repairs, roads, environmental, etc, so please don't judge people that have PAID for years to maybe retire with a little more than the 1200 per month that most seniors get!! And FYI I can retire at 62 now without a reduced pension and BTW I am an RCW who takes care of people with a ratio of approx. 20% younger than that age so DO THE MATH!!!!! We are not asking for a handout, JUST what we paid into and are entitled to!!!!!

    • well said
      November 15, 2013 - 23:52

      well said annoyed .. why do you think the ghiz government and pei made I through the recession so well .. they took money from the pension fund, and borrowed us to near bankruptcy, threw money around like there was no tomorrow, well guess what tomorrow is here .. when the pension fund is doing well the money made off investments goes into the governments pocket if it was left alone we would not be in this mess.. that is why government will not give up any control because its their personal piggy bank when times are good and their share is taken off the top.. I pay into it why cant I have a say where it goes.. VOTE ON IT

      November 16, 2013 - 05:02

      You haven't got a clue what you are talking about.

    • AMAZED
      November 16, 2013 - 14:28

      Your very existence as a civil servant is contingent on tax payer dollars .If more dollars are needed to fund your pension and government throws more money at this black hole tax payers will pay more against our will .What is so difficult to understand .I have no pension yet I must contribute to yours .

  • Lillian
    November 15, 2013 - 18:51

    Why won.t the government deal with UPSE is it because the pension fund has been spent and the government doesn't want the Union to see the books There has to be a reason why they won't take a deal that could save this province 192,000 dollars what is the real reason

    • Brandy
      November 15, 2013 - 20:11

      The Pension plan is audited annually and the union gets a copy of the report, so it can't be shocked that the pension was in trouble. The union can claim what it wants, but they know. It is not the taxpayers responsibility to keep funding the pension. Bottom line, is the Union wants control of half the pension funds and if you think we have issues now!!!! $192,000 is small potatoes to the money the government is paying in. Don't always believe what you here

    • Proud Union member
      November 17, 2013 - 20:43 really need to educate youself on the issue before you comment.