New Bill Averts Strike by Canadian Union of Public Employees

February 23, 2006 ( - A strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) over pension changes was averted when the province agreed to review legislation that will give control of the pension plan back to municipalities and their workers.

The Canadian Press reports that Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen said he spoke with CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan and came to an agreement to pass a new bill calling for a review of the pension legislation in 2012, prompting a quick end to the stalemate.   “By the year 2012, we will be doing a review of the legislation and also of the actuarial premises that it’s based on,” Gerretsen said.

CUPE members across the province had been poised to walk out at midnight Wednesday in a protest against the proposed law, which is expected to come to a vote today in the legislature.   The union is worried that the bill that devolves responsibility for the $40-billion Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System to municipalities and the workers will make it impossible to negotiate better pension benefits, according to the CP.

However, Premier Dalton McGuinty said, “This does not in any way compromise their rights, including their right to negotiate enhanced benefits.   It’s all about fundamentally giving control to the workers of a pension plan over which only the provincial government has had control.”   If passed, the bill would also give emergency workers such as police and firefighters the power to negotiate supplemental benefits, which municipalities warn will lead to property tax hikes.