Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Canadian Finance report downplays Nortel retirees' appeal for fair treatment.

The report on retirement income security of Canadians by the Standing Committee on Finance has been released. Only the NDP members on the committee have honored their promises to include a recommendation to protect pensioners from losses in their defined pension trust as a result of bankruptcy. Liberals and Bloc Quebecois also added some ideas aimed at helping but overall the recommendations fall far short of what is needed.

In spite of compelling testimony by Don Sproule of the NRPC and Diane Urquhart, the conservatives on the committee have turned their backs on Nortel retirees and disabled people who stand to lose pension payments and support as a result of the Nortel bankruptcy.

Stating, in a phone call, that the Nortel retiree representation had no credibility, the conservative chairman of the committee praised the Canadian pension plan and touted it’s soundness. This is in spite of the fact that Canada offers no protection to retirees in the event their plan is devastated by bankruptcy of the company funding it, and worse still, Canada ignores the plight of the disabled workers who will be abandoned at the end of the year.

Quoting bondholders and bankers, the committee report refers to defined pension plans as a “Gratuity”. This illustrates the cold and indifferent attitude of the conservatives at large, and their total disregard of real life facts. It has been well understood over many years now that defined pensions are contracts between employees and employers.

Each year I worked at Nortel I received clear statements in writing defining the amount of pension, based on my salary and service, which I would obtain when I reached retirement age. There was no doubt that this was part of my remuneration and like most people it became a central part of my planning for life in retirement.

To classify this as a “gratuity” is insulting and offensive, when I saw it as deferred compensation for the eighty thousand hours, or more, that I spent trying to make Nortel a successful company. Nortel employees provided earnings back to all Canadians over more than 100years through increased employment, corporate and personal taxes, and world wide trade generated by the brilliance of Nortel’s products. Compensation for those efforts always included the understanding of a reasonable pension and all Nortel employees, including management, saw that as part of the overall remuneration package.

With this example of the conservative leadership I see Canada falling behind countries that shine in terms of their treatment of their citizens. Under the current PM and his party, Canada will remain among the ranks of those who ignore the plight of their retirees and who prefer to supplement the wealth of the rich bankers and bondholders rather than helping the weak and elderly live a reasonable life in retirement.

The report may be found at:

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