Imagine reaching the end of a long, hard career and then finding that your workplace pension isn’t there for you. It happens more often than we might think with private sector pension plans. And that’s why Mike Powell and the Canadian Federation of Pensioners (CFP) are there to help.
The CFP, says Powell, was started in 2005 and now includes 20 member organizations. Those 20 organizations “represent about 200,000 people who mostly belong to private sector, defined benefit (DB) pension plans,” he explains.
DB plans pay pensions for life based on what members earned at work, and how long they were in the plan. While members contribute each payday, it is up to the employer – the plan sponsor – to ensure enough money is set aside to pay the future pensions.
Pensions can be dramatically reduced when companies run into financial trouble, notes Powell. This has happened “with Nortel, with Sears, so our organization is there to advocate for the pension rights of those plan members,” he explains.
In Ontario where the government recently reduced solvency requirements, the CFP has lobbied hard to improve the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF), a sort of pension insurance that kicks in when corporate plans are insolvent. Currently there are limits on what the PBGF pays out, and it does not top up retirees to 100 per cent of what they should have been receiving.
In addition to giving plan sponsors a break on solvency funding, Powell says, the government should also change the PBGF to fully cover pension loss funded by those same sponsors. That would mean retirees would be “made whole” in the case of an insolvency. The CFP hopes that if Ontario goes this route, the other provinces will follow.
At the federal level CFP wants pension plan members to become “super priority” creditors when companies go bankrupt. “That would move them from the back of the line to near the front,” he explains. “If they did this, pensions would be taken right out of the equation when a company is insolvent.”
Protecting pensions delivers retirement security, Powell explains. “If you can’t count on your pension, it creates a great deal of uncertainty,” he says. Affected retirees spend less on goods, services, and charities, and may have to rely more on taxpayer-funded social assistance. The fact that many seniors are retiring with debt can compound the problem, he explains. For more on the CFP, visit their website.
We thank Mike Powell and the CFP for speaking to us. Even if you have a workplace pension plan, additional saving for retirement via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wise move. For more information, visit our website,
|Written by Martin Biefer
|Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22|