Pension Protections Needed for All Canadians

April 22, 2009, 11:16 AM EST

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Delegates unanimously endorsed a recommendation to participate in a pension rally at Queen's Park on April 23, calling for stronger pension protections from the provincial and federal government as well as corporations in the face of a severe economic downturn.

The recommendation calls on Council delegates to demand the Ontario government fully backstop defined benefit pension plans through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF), in addition to increasing coverage levels from $1,000 to $2,500 per month. The recommendation also calls on all CAW local unions to lobby the federal government for a national guaranteed pension benefit fund. 

Pension plans in Ontario have come under increased scrutiny over the past month since the McGuinty government announced the PBGF (the provincial pension safety net) is not large enough to cover pension liabilities in the event that a major corporation, like General Motors, goes bankrupt.

The provincial government's announcement has been met with fierce criticism from retired workers and seniors organizations, as well as provincial labour and community groups.

A coalition of labour, poverty and seniors organizations has been formed and held a press conference on April 20 in Toronto, calling on both provincial and federal governments to ensure pension plans are protected in the face of a deepening economic recession.

CAW President Ken Lewenza called on the provincial government to implement the recommendations of the 2008 Arthurs Report - a government-commissioned report on pension reform.

"The provincial government called for the commission, the provincial government talked about the role of government in advancing the causes of seniors, and the recommendations in the Arthurs Report shouldn't be sitting collecting dust somewhere," said Lewenza as reported by the Canadian Press.

Along with the CAW, coalition groups include Canada Without Poverty (formerly the National Anti-Poverty Organization), the Canadian-Caribbean Seniors Group, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and the Ontario Society (Coalition) of Seniors' Organizations (OCSCO).

"The government cannot now abandon their promise during an economic crisis when retirees need it most," said Morris Jesion, executive director of OCSCO, adding that retirees are the victims of the current economic crisis and will be forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden without adequate protections under the PBGF.

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