Unions continue effort to convert multi-employer pension to target-benefit plan

As lobbying efforts intensify to keep Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ employees in the public service pension, plans are moving ahead to convert a multi-union, multi-employer plan into a target-benefit arrangement.

Collective agreements ratified in September 2015 between the United Steelworkers union and CNL state that employees hired before that date would stay in the public plan until September 2018, at which time they’ll be moved into the multi-employer Canadian Energy and Related Industries pension plan. About 360 members of USW Local 4096 who work at the CNL research facility in Chalk River, Ont., were affected when the federal government decided to privatize it and close the defined benefit plan to employees.

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

While the union maintains that the best option for workers is to stay in the public plan, the work being done to convert the multi-employer plan to a target-benefit arrangement is its “backstop option,” says David Lipton, a staff representative at United Steelworkers. “All of the unions involved in the CERi plan support the initiative for conversion to a [target-benefit] plan,” he adds.

As reported by Benefits Canada in October 2017, the trustees of the CERi plan were aiming to transition to the new arrangement by mid-2018. But since the nuclear sector is federally regulated, conversion to a multi-employer target-benefit plan will require a regulatory change, says Lipton, noting the unions are currently conducting research and actuarial work on the design of such a plan and are communicating with the government.

Read: Union-led, multi-employer pension considering transition to target-benefit plan

In the meantime, the union is continuing to lobby the government to keep workers in the public service plan. “The rate of contributions between the public plan and the CERi plan are not very much different, so we frankly don’t understand the government’s rationale and we’re trying to convince the powers that be that our membership should be able to stay in the public plan,” says Lipton.

“But it was important to us to start the work on this Plan B in the event that the lobbying efforts didn’t succeed by the date . . . when the changeover is going to happen,” he adds.

Read: Ontario proposes rules for target benefits in multi-employer plans