Opponents of pension bills pack public hearing in Edmonton
Hearings continue throughout Alberta
By United Nurses of AlbertaJune 17, 2014 14:04[Image]
More than 100 passionate and engaged working people packed a small committee room in the Legislative Annex Building and a nearby overflow room Monday night for the first day of hearings into Bills 9 and 10, the Alberta government’s controversial pension legislation.
Over the marathon four-hour meeting, they heard 43 speakers question or condemn – sometimes with anger, sometimes with tears, sometimes dispassionately – the proposed legislation that would attack both public and private sector pensions in Alberta, including the Local Authorities Pension Plan, the main retirement security investment for most UNA members.
Only one of the 44 speakers scheduled Monday supported the Progressive Conservative government’s proposed pension changes.
The hearings were held by the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, to which the bills were referred in mid-May after it became apparent they had contributed to the political crisis being faced by the government.
Scheduled speakers were given three minutes each for their comments, plus a short time to answer questions by the MLAs on the committee.
Many speakers emphasized that they had chosen lower-paid careers in public service in part because of the security of their pension benefits – and said that without that they will consider leaving public service for higher paid work requiring their skills in the private sector.
Such speakers included Registered Nurses, paramedics, Crown Prosecutors, Registered Psychiatric Nurses, government technicians and many others.
Many nurses and other health care workers told the MLAs early retirement provisions are necessary because the physical requirements of their jobs mean they will not be able to continue to work into their 60s. Many of these presenters were particularly concerned and offended that the government planned to leave early retirement provisions in place for male-dominated occupations by take them from female-dominated professions like nursing.
Likewise, many speakers objected to the government’s lack of meaningful consultation or negotiation with its employees.
Almost every speaker made the point they have never seen their co-workers, young and old, so engaged by an issue. And while speakers and observers came predominantly from the public sector, there were many private sector employers there too, concerned about provisions in Bill 10 that would allow their employers to easily switch their defined benefit pension plans to “target” plans that can be reduced when the employer decides that is necessary.
Many speakers told how they now feel they can no longer trust their employer, or their government, again, after the pension promise that was made to them when they began to work was broken for political, not sound financial, reasons,
The next in the series of hearing is scheduled to open tonight at 6 p.m. in Fort McMurray.
United Nurses of Alberta strongly urges members to attend the public committee hearings to make clear to the MLAs on the committee their concern about the proposed changes to their pensions.
Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, pension legislation hearings
All the public hearings are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Dates and locations of the remaining hearings are listed below:
– Fort McMurray – TONIGHT, June 17, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, 530 MacKenzie Boulevard
– Grande Prairie – June 18, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Pomeroy Hotel & Conference Centre, 11633 – 100th Street
– Calgary – June 23, The Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, 1316 – 33rd Street, NE
– Lethbridge – June 24, The Coast Lethbridge Hotel & Conference Centre, 526 Mayor Magrath Drive South
– Medicine Hat – June 25, Medicine Hat Lodge, 1051 Ross Glen Drive SE
– Red Deer – June 26, Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, 3310 – 50th Avenue
All the hearings are open to the public