by Peter Whitaker, CUPW Lifetime Member from the Ottawa Local who served as our National Negotiator from 1982 to 1999.
“The buying power of a pension – absent protection from cost of living increases as low as two per cent annually – would drop nearly 50 percent by the end of retirement assuming normal life expectancy,” wrote James Bagnall in Capital Reckoning, The Ottawa Citizen, May 31st 2014.
For the past 3 years, CPC CEO Deepak Chopra has constantly been advocating the removal of our pension indexation in the Corporation’s pension propaganda. Canada Post has been using the pension plan solvency deficit as an excuse to justify its 5-point program of cuts announced in Dec. 2013, which includes eliminating door-to-door delivery, cutting 8000 jobs and restructuring our pension plan. The fact is that CPC has not paid any monies into paying down the pension solvency deficit since 2011 despite their promise made in 2000 that the Corporation would cover all pension deficits. The Corporation even refused to accept its own Pension Advisory Committee’s UNANIMOUS recommendation made in April 2015 to direct a SUBSTANTIAL portion of the 2014 year end profits into paying down the solvency deficit.
This material will give active members and retirees an actual visual of the impact the removal of our indexing would have on a postal worker’s pension benefits. In 2003, I retired from CPC as a dispatcher (PO 5) at 55 years of age upon completing 35 years of service (the maximum full-time pension). The chart below shows the increases to my 2003 pension as a result of our indexing (which we paid extra for).
As you can see, from Jan. 1st, 2004 to Jan. 1st, 2016, my monthly pension increased by $396.31.
Not only is our pension indexed, but so is our pension bridge benefit. When I retired in Jan. 2003, my monthly bridge payment was $785.23. By Jan. 1st, 2012, the bridge had increased to $941.44 thanks to indexing. This represents a total monthly increase of $156.21 over the 10-year period (age 55 to 65) while the bridge is in effect. The Canada Pension Plan is indexed and can be taken at age 60 at a reduced rate, which I had opted to do. (Note the pension bridge is set up to provide the equivalent of the amount of CPP received at age 65).
Over the 10-year bridge period, indexing generated a total of $1,874.52 of extra pension income to offset the rise in the CPI. My basic pension from Jan. 1st 2003 to Dec. 31st 2015 generated a total of $4,475.76 of extra pension income as a result of our pension indexation. The combined pension income received as a result of our pension indexing is: basic pension increase $4,475.76 plus Pension Bridge increase $1,874.52 for a total of $6,350.28 just to offset the rise in the CPI.
As shown on the chart, the Consumer Price Index rose by 24.45% over this same period. To put it another way, without pension indexing over this 13-year period, our pension purchasing power would have been reduced by almost 25%. Imagine what the drop in buying power would be at life expectancy (estimated at 82 by Stats Can., and 88 by Canada Post actuaries). It would likely exceed 50% drop in purchasing power as reported by James Bagnall.
Active members and retirees must mobilize now with our supporters to take on the Corporation and defend our defined benefit pension plan and our indexing. The battle cry of the CLC’s 3.3 million members and retiree groups representing 6.6 million members is “A Promise is a Promise” regarding Defined Benefit Pension plans. Active members must get involved in the fight to protect their pension benefits with their Union in these negotiations and retirees need to get ready to join the National Retiree Organization when they receive the material that will be mailed to them shortly. It is time to UNITE and FIGHT for our pensions and benefits together. Remember our proud motto “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.”
The Struggle Continues
CUPW Lifetime Member, Ottawa local
National Negotiator, 1982-1999