A bill proposing controversial changes to public sector pensions, including those affecting University of Calgary support staff, left the Alberta legislature last week and will enter a public hearing process for review over the summer.
Bill 9 — also known as the Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act — drew criticism from union workers and opposition parties after it was tabled on April 16.
They objected to planned higher penalties for early retirement and the bill’s elimination of automatic pension increases tied to the Consumer Price Index.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president GuySmith said the union, which represents support staff at the U of C, welcomes the bill’s delay.
“I think, eventually, they figured out that this bill is fatally flawed and needed to be sent back to committee for review,” Smith said.
Smith said that, if passed in its current form, the bill would allow the finance minister to “unilaterally” make changes to public sector pension plans.
Jessica Jacobs-Mino, a press secretary with minister Horner, said the provincial government is mindful of concerns over joint-governance.
“I think that we have some very similar objectives, though maybe some different viewpoints about how we arrive at those objectives,” Jacobs-Mino said.
Smith said that pension sustainability is essential and that a review of Bill 9 is necessary for the provincial government to provide sustainable retirement funding.
“The last thing we want is for them to fail. That’s the deferred wages our members get for their retirement security,” Smith said. “We absolutely want them to be sustainable, we just believe that [Doug Horner] was going about it the wrong way.”
Public hearings will be held over the summer before Bill 9 re-enters the legislature for debate in the fall.
Jacobs-Mino said the hearings will help clarify the goals of different groups with a stake in the legislation.
The AUPE will present their proposed changes to pension plans at public hearings over the summer.
Smith credits the protests of union members for the bill’s movement to standing-committee.
“I know that they’ve beenvery involved themselves at lobbying their MLAs and I think they need to know that they’ve won a victory here,” Smith said.