More than 500 members of United Steelworkers Local 1568 who are employed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories have reached a collective agreement that includes moving into a new union-trusteed, multi-employer pension plan.

However, the trustees of that plan, the Canadian Energy and Related Industries pension plan, are also aiming to transition to a target-benefit arrangement under federal jurisdiction by mid-2018. “It’s not as good as being part of the [public service pension plan], which is a defined benefit plan, but it’s the next best thing, really,” says David Lipton, staff representative for the United Steelworkers. He notes the main reason for making the transition is to abide by the terms of the divestment agreement between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. 

Read: Can the feds overcome opposition to pass target-benefit pension bill?

“The terms of that divestment agreement is that they have to recreate a pension plan, but the pension plan can’t have any possibility of having any solvency liabilities,” says Lipton. “So what the trustees want to do is set up a target-benefit plan, with a plan design in such a way that there’s no possibility of having solvency liability. And the only employer liability would be to pay the amounts that are under the collective agreement, the contributions on current service.”

Following the federal government’s privatization of Atomic Energy of Canada, it announced it would be removing Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ employees from the public service pension plan. The new collective agreement, which is effective retroactively to April 1, 2017, will allow employees to move into the Canadian Energy and Related Industries pension plan.

In November 2016, about 360 members of United Steelworkers Local 4096 who work at the same facility ratified three-year collective agreements covering two groups of employees. Those agreements created the multi-employer plan, which was set up with the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, according to Lipton.

Read: CNL staff agree to move to new multi-employer pension plan

The two-year contract for United Steelworkers Local 1568 members covers technicians, technologists, information technology personnel and radiation surveyors at the former Atomic Energy of Canada site in Chalk River, Ont. It is now controlled by an international consortium of corporations including SNC-Lavalin.

The new collective agreement also includes total wage increases of three per cent and improved contract language affecting issues such as seniority, hours of work and disciplinary matters. It also introduces new provisions recognizing the impact of domestic violence and mental-health issues on the workplace.

“Mental-health issues are gaining a higher profile in society now with the attempt to de-stigmatize mental-health issues and recognition of the fact that, in Canada, at least 30 per cent of disabilities are related to mental health,” says Lipton. “By recognizing mental health in the workplace and the role of providing a supportive workplace to prevent and assist mental-health conditions . . . we wanted to negotiate something like this.”

While Lipton says the collective agreement doesn’t include a specific program to address mental-health or domestic violence issues in the workplace, he adds that the language in the former agreement wasn’t very extensive.“The employer had some reticence to going in that direction, but we were successful in having a recognition, at least a passive recognition, that these things do have an impact on the workplace . . .”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories did not respond to Benefits Canada‘s request for comment.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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