Ghiz government refuses to budge on pension reform

Teresa Wright
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Pension legislation passes second reading despite weeks of pushback

Debbie Bovyer, president of the PEI Union Of Public Sector Employees sits inside the media room of Province House Thursday, beside a live video feed of the proceedings in the Legislature. She and other union members were on hand as the MLAs discussed An Act to Amend the Civil Service Superannuation Act, which governs pensions for government employees.

“They won the battle, they didn’t win war,” union leader Debbie Bovyer said after controversial changes to public sector pensions passed second reading in the legislature Thursday.

The bill was debated for over an hour Thursday evening, but despite weeks of pushback from two of P.E.I.’s biggest unions that included ad campaigns and an angry protest, the Ghiz government refused to budge on its pension reforms.

Bovyer, who is president of the Union of Public Sector Employees, was among a handful of union members in the public gallery Thursday evening.

She said she was disappointed in the behaviour of government MLAs during the debate.

“Grinning and smiling and a pretty cocky attitude,” Bovyer said.

“It’s disappointing that elected people can treat taxpayers in the manner that they’ve treated us tonight.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers tried to amend the bill that will make changes to the Civil Service Superannuation Fund.

He tried to have current retirees and anyone planning to retire before January 2017 exempted from the changes – notably the elimination of guaranteed indexing of pension payments and moving to a career average for calculation of benefits.

Sheridan said this would account for more than 80 per cent of members.

“What that means is that the contributors, those that are active, would have to fill that void. And of course they can’t afford to do that. The amount of contribution that it would take to fill that void is impossible to do,” Sheridan says.

“We have to have a fair and equitable treatment of all.”

Myers also tried to have the clause that gives government immunity from any future grievance or legal action over these changes removed from the legislation.

He pulled out a selection from the ‘Magna Carta for Kids’ and began reading from it, saying he felt there are similarities in the story lines.

“You’re legislating away people’s rights to oppose you,” Myers said.

“What I fear is that, if we don’t stop it now, the next time it comes around it’s easier… and we get down to a point where every piece of legislation has written in at the bottom of it, ‘Oh yes, and you can’t oppose us on this.’”

He said he chose not to block the entire bill as he hoped government would take note of his concerns and adopt his amendments.

But Sheridan reiterated the immunity clause must remain to give protection not only to government, but also to a new committee to be struck - made up of government, union and retiree representatives – that will sign off on future indexing decisions.

Bovyer said Thursday her union will not participate in this committee and is no longer interested in talks over joint trusteeship.

“There is nothing left to govern. All the rules have been laid out in the legislation. The only thing left is to tell retirees, ‘Sorry but you can’t get a raise.’ We’re not interested in doing that to people.”

UPSE was hoping to launch a legal challenge against the pension legislation, but Bovyer said a final legal opinion has come back saying they cannot move forward after all.

But the union will continue to fight – but now it will be to unseat the Liberals in the next provincial election.

“I was around when Robert Ghiz’s father was premier and I think he would be very disappointed in his son tonight,” Bovyer added.

“Very disappointed.”

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

 

 

Organizations: Union of Public Sector Employees, Civil Service Superannuation Fund

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Recent comments

  • The direction of authority . . .
    December 07, 2013 - 14:09

    The idea of contingent indexing is very interesting; it's certainly revealing. For example, if I can't pay my taxes because my pension doesn't cover my expenses can I refuse to pay them - sort of make it contingent upon the sufficiency of my pension?

  • change it
    December 06, 2013 - 17:58

    you people make me laugh. As a relocated Islander years ago all I can tell you is that you voted him in and continue to do so. election after election you send the liberals back to power for multiple terms only to see them destroy the province only to finally realize after 8-12 years, well its time to bring the Tories back and fix everything. They do only to have everyone bark at them for having to make hard financially sound decisions, almost clean things up then boot them out in favor of the likes of Ghiz. You created the monster now you have to deal with it. Its not ever going to change from the past 40 + years I've seen in island politics. Sorry but it is what it is

  • politics, full of taints
    December 06, 2013 - 16:10

    A new government must ensure that our public service is freed from political taint." - Robert Ghiz right from the head taint

  • X LIBERAL
    December 06, 2013 - 12:23

    HE IS NO JOE, THAT IS FOR SURE. NOT EVEN CLOSE

  • SlyFox
    December 06, 2013 - 11:56

    Let me get this straight, the union members pay their dues into a pension plan.Now they are not allowed to know how much is in the pension or how much their pension will be when they retire? Also can not sue the ones looking after their pension if something goes wrong. I know if i was putting my money into a retirement fund i would want to be able to know how much i had invested and know where it was being invested.Now if one day my broker told me my retirement fund was gone,i would like to be able to hold them accountable to know where it went and be able to sue them to get my money back if misdeeds were done.

  • Real Canadian
    December 06, 2013 - 11:36

    Ghiz is learning from the best do what you want and not be held accountable just like another liberal ole Dalton oops but wait there family now bunch of lying politicians

  • doug smith
    December 06, 2013 - 10:31

    the government has owned the union for years you do what your told debbie and put on a good show maybe they should think back to the part not allowed to strike they can do whatever they want

  • Fed up
    December 06, 2013 - 08:06

    This is unbelievable in a country like Canada! A control freak can actually mess with pension money WE have paid into!?! We always thought we were living in a Democracy.....with Ghiz, we are NOT!!

  • Hammer MacLeod
    December 06, 2013 - 07:56

    In reality Ghiz has done nothing that he promised and a whole lot of what he said he would,nt. He has been full of bull since day one.

  • much ado about nothing
    December 06, 2013 - 07:56

    I am a civil servant and according to the information I’ve seen, I don’t see that the pension itself is being reduced. Sure there won’t be indexing if the numbers don’t allow for it, but the way it is presented in commercials, it sounds like pensions are being cut – that sounds like a misrepresentation to me. In the end, I am still one of the very fortunate individuals to have a pension so I’m not complaining that adjustments need to be made. It’s the demographics everywhere – there are more retirees and less people to pay in – it’s not just on PEI. Pensions everywhere are going to need to be reformed. There are many islanders that won’t have a pension so IMO, stop complaining and be thankful that you have what you have – I am.

  • Wayne
    December 06, 2013 - 07:26

    "Sheridan said this would account for more than 80 per cent of members." This will make everyone work an extra year or 2 or 3. Problem, they won't retire, can't retire now, and won't create openings for new people. The only, only reason this can be happening is for all these sub companies, numbered consulting companies will be set up to hire contracted staff in the near future. Zero Pensions for these people . Liberal Patronage at its best. This is why they need the law changed as to not be sued, union memberships will be down 80% by 2020. At that time they will want to sue today's lawmakers for there back room, "Squash", the union plan.

  • Nick
    December 06, 2013 - 05:51

    Because you work for the government you should automatically be granted a cushy pention? Many Private sector businesses / employees are paying the taxes which fund you wages, bebifits, and pentions ~ get over it you are all overpaid and under worked! Cut back all penions and lower our taxes

  • Sammy Two Step
    December 06, 2013 - 05:44

    Let them eat cake....down with the unions!!!

  • Brandy
    December 06, 2013 - 05:20

    UPSE reminds me of Kids I hung aroung with when I was younger. "if I can't play my way and win , I don't want to play and am going home." The Union should attend the sessions to try and work with the Government, not suck and run home. Whether you like what the Government is doing, it could be worse. Look at New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, heck look at the City of Detroit and what they are doing. as an UPSe member I an disappointed that they want to take their ball and go home. Grow up

  • don
    December 06, 2013 - 01:17

    it is a shame that this government has to bully everything. but with 2 bullies in the lead what can we expect. what is a bully ? "a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker". does that look like any 2 in this government? then we look back as the dumb islanders has forgot.Robert Ghiz, was elected in 2007 on the back of dozens of promises .A doctor for every Islander:"I want you to write that one down because I expect to be held accountable for that commitment.  Law enforcement In addition to low numbers of doctors, the Liberals charged the Tories were lax on law enforcement. The Liberals accused Pat Binns's Progressive Conservatives of chronically underinvesting in education. A new government must ensure that our public service is freed from political taint." - Robert Ghiz. End political patronage. End MLA appointments to executive council committees. then Ghiz, who has promised to deliver a balanced budget by 2013-14, said his government has made fiscal progress after freezing every budget except those of health and education. And he broke every single one. And yet the dummies in the pole vote him high no wonder the rest of canada LAUGH at islanders. Then Published on September 08, 2011. "We're not bringing in any HST that's detrimental to Islanders," Ghiz told The Guardian. In February 2008, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said the implementation of the HST would result in the biggest tax cut in P.E.I. history, which would result in nearly $20 million in annual tax losses for provincial coffers.

    • To Don
      December 06, 2013 - 12:14

      There are hundreds of Tories who hold civilly servant jobs- so your patronage rant is a moot point.

  • In reality
    December 06, 2013 - 00:47

    Islanders get hung up on the small issues when in reality the real issue is that this province cannot support itself. History has show the island will always run a deficit and the Future shows no promise. It's time to join on with another Maritime provice. You can still be proud to be an Islander, you can still have you beautiful scenery, you can still have an accent and your moonshine. The reality is you can't keep raising taxes, changing the pension rules, adding fees to every service and expect that it will sustainable. I am an Islander, hard worker and educated. I have a wife and 2 kid with a third on the way. Our family income is $180,000 annually. How. I don't live on PEI. My heart is there and my goal is to return but the fact of the matter is there is nothing and it is only getting worse. Time to put our pride aside and look financial stability by consolidating with another province.

    • islander
      December 06, 2013 - 08:04

      strike ..Cupe island wide shut Ghiz down.