The union representing 1,900 non-academic workers at the University of Saskatchewan is raising objections to a proposal the school has tabled to eliminate its defined benefit pension plan replace it with a defined contribution or target-benefit plan.

In December, the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ bargaining committee proposed a jointly sponsored DB plan as a compromise, said Craig Hannah, president of CUPE Local 1975, in a news release. “Our jointly sponsored defined benefit proposal would have saved the university millions of dollars per year, and they would have seen plan risks and costs equally shared by university and union members going forward.

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“The university once again rejected our constructive efforts to address their pension concerns and protect our benefit security. Their complete lack of willingness to compromise on the pension plan means that the U of S is pushing us closer to job action.”

The union is also raising concerns over the lack of a legal requirement to fully fund target-benefit plans. “Currently, CUPE 1975 members can count on a guaranteed, predictable pension,” said Hannah. “But the University of Saskatchewan’s proposal will remove all certainty, and leaves workers in the dark about their retirement income.”

The university has offered union members a signing bonus of either $1,500 or $3,000, depending on which alternative pension plan members agree to join. In a statement, the university called this part of a “very generous offer,” which also includes additional vacation days.

“The current defined benefit pension plan for employees who are members of CUPE 1975 has cost the university an additional $29.8 million beyond normal contributions over the past decade ($3.1 million in 2018), and these significant additional contributions are expected to continue into the future under the pension’s current structure,” said Gord Hunchak, chief communications officer for the university, in the statement. “These are funds that are being diverted from the university’s teaching and research mission.”

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Hunchak also noted CUPE 1975 is the only labour group at the university still in an open DB plan. “It is not fiscally responsible, nor is it financially sustainable, for the university to continue with the current CUPE 1975 defined benefit pension plan.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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