Staff at Queen’s University, the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto and members of the United Steelworkers union have voted in favour of setting up a new multi-employer university plan.

The University Pension Plan Ontario is proposed to be a jointly-sponsored plan including six labour groups, three staff unions and three faculty associations from the universities.

The joint university pension plan has been a long time coming. In 2014, a joint working group started to explore the idea. In 2015, a decision was taken to shift the discussion to six universities and then in 2017, three of the six universities broke off to continue further discussions.

These parties had well-developed, joint working groups between faculty and the various unions, and were able to progress in the discussions, says Alex D. McKinnon, department leader of research, public policy and bargaining support at the United Steelworkers’ Canadian national office. “We had a few bumps along the way, but all the parties were committed to trying to make this work.”

While the three universities have now received consent from many stakeholders, that process isn’t over as other employee groups are still required to vote and retired members will have the opportunity to object to the new plan.

If consent is reached, the parties will apply to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to create a pension plan, followed by the FSCO approval and setting up the plan infrastructure, McKinnon says.

A decision hasn’t been reached about how the investments of almost $10 billion assets under management will be managed once all the approvals take place, says McKinnon.

But once approved, a sponsor board and administration board will be established to deal with the asset transfer, he says. “It will be about a year and a half to work on that in order to get that all set up. So there’s a number of options that are certainly on the table, but no decision has been made.”

The targeted operational date for the new plan is July 1, 2021, McKinnon adds.