Nortel Pensioners and Employees Demand Government Action

October 8, 2009, 10:34 AM EST

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Pensioners, long-term disabled and former Nortel employees arrived enforce at Queen's Park in Toronto Wednesday to demand justice and action from the Government of Ontario and the federal government to overhaul the country's unfair bankruptcy system. 

They crowded the lawn outside Queen's Park waving banners and signs as speaker after speaker blasted the McGuinty Ontario government and the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa for not protecting the pensions and benefits of Nortel retirees and others who are suffering the fall out of a bankruptcy.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said seniors and pensioners helped build the wealth and success of Canada and must be treated with respect. He said they deferred wages to ensure they receive decent pensions in retirement and that should never be taken away.

"All Canadians deserve pension income protection," Lewenza said. "This is a national crisis we have here today."

He called for increased funding for the province's Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund so that it provides $2,500 per month instead of the current maximum of just $1000. He also called for improvements to the public pension system so that CPP ensures a living wage through a doubling of the proportion of average earnings replaced.

Lewenza reminded protestors of the incredibly important role Nortel has played in Canada and the critical contribution of the thousands of employees who worked at Nortel. He stressed that the issue of pension protection must be a top priority in the next provincial and federal elections

"This travesty is being ignored by the Government of Ontario and the federal government," said Lewenza. "Governments in other countries where Nortel operated are taking action to secure pensions and not punish retirees for their years of service."

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the government of Ontario has a responsibility to ensure pensions are in place when people need them. She demanded the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund be bolstered and that legislation be changed to ensure workers are a first priority creditor under bankruptcy.

The rally focused on the issue of the loss of pensions, severance pay and benefits as Canadian companies, like Nortel, go into bankruptcy. The demonstrators' message was that workers who helped build successful companies are being discriminated against, cheated out of what is owed them and now face financial ruin.

Former CAW national secretary-treasurer Bob Nickerson thanked Nortel retirees and employees for attending the rally and received a huge cheer after demanding that "Premier McGuinty must listen to us."

Among the other speakers were former Nortel President Bob Ferchat; President of Nortel Retirees and former employees Protection Canada (NRPC) Don Sproule;  Among the other speakers were former Nortel President Bob Ferchat; President of Nortel Retirees and former employees Protection Canada (NRPC) Don Sproule; former Nortel worker in Belleville and former president of CAW Local 1530 Mary Jane MacKinnon. 

The CAW once represented several thousand Nortel workers in Ontario. In its prime Nortel had manufacturing plants in Belleville, Kingston, London, and the Toronto area. Today only the Belleville location remains with a few CAW members. And they have an uncertain future since Nortel has just sold their operation to a US company.

The NRPC is a volunteer organization whose goal is to protect the interests of all Nortel pensioners and former employees. The NRPC has been actively campaigning on their behalf in the courts, political arenas and media since Nortel entered bankruptcy protection in January 2009.


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