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Air Canada unions call for airline to end attacks on pensions

Posted by on Jun 6, 2011 in Retirement | 0 comments

May 30, 2011, 10:15 AM EST

Three of the unions representing Air Canada workers -the CAW, CUPE and the IAMAW have released a joint statement calling on Air Canada to halt the attack on its workers’ pension plan in the current round of contract talks.

The statement says that the unions and its members are fully intent on maintaining the current pension model, although the exact details of the plan will be subject to negotiation.

Below is an excerpt of the statement:

“Air Canada is known as one of the highest-quality airlines in the world, precisely because of the skill and commitment of its employees to provide the best, safest service possible.  Yet Air Canada’s workforce has endured many years of economic sacrifice and uncertainty.  Through repeated episodes of corporate bankruptcy and near-bankruptcy, Air Canada employees have endured wage cuts and wage freezes, the loss of benefits and paid time off, and ongoing deterioration in working conditions and stress levels.  We have also experienced an erosion in the financial well-being of our pension plan – a plan to which the workers contribute through significant payroll deductions.

Most recently, to assist the company through the difficult economic aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the workers and their unions agreed to the deferral of major pension contributions that would have otherwise been required under federal pension law (reprising a similar deferral which was implemented in 2003-2004).

Now, as both the economy and Air Canada’s financial results continue to recover, Air Canada’s workers have been presented with offensive demands for dramatic, permanent reductions in pension benefits for existing employees – and a parallel demand to eliminate defined pension benefits altogether for new employees.  The company points to the plan’s present deficit (implying increased company contributions in future years) as evidence that the plan is somehow “unsustainable.” Although pension plan deficits are largely a result of interest rates and market returns, AC employees have assisted AC in dealing with these deficits by agreeing to special pension regulations allowing AC to defer deficit payments.

The purpose of the deferrals was obviously not to provide the company with a subsequent excuse to eliminate pension benefits; it was to provide the company with financial breathing room (at critical periods in its history), on the expectation and the explicit promise that the company would subsequently make up for lost time, with extra contributions once financial circumstances improved. READ MORE

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