Banning Two-Tier Pensions

Steelworkers are leading a labour movement campaign to compel Quebec’s Liberal government to actually adopt its own policy on pension fairness for young workers.

“We rarely agree with the Liberals but in this case we do, and we’re asking them to keep their promise,” said Alain Croteau, Quebec Steelworkers Director. At its recent convention, the Quebec Liberal Party passed a resolution calling on the government to ban employers from imposing two-tier pension plans in workplaces, noting such practices discriminate against young workers. However, the Liberal government has to date refused to pass legislation to implement its own policy.

In April, more than 600 activists, most of them young workers, marched through downtown Montreal to the offices of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, exposing the government’s hypocrisy and demanding action. The demonstrators included dozens of young Steelworkers from across Canada who attended the USW Next Generation Conference and the USW National Policy Conference.

Corporations are trying to eliminate defined benefit pensions for young workers even when there is no financial justification, said François Cardinal, Vice-President of Steelworkers Local 6658, whose members are on strike against Lafarge Cement in Saint-Constant, Que., over the company’s attempt to impose two- tier pensions. “Our pension plan is 112% funded. They just want to take it away for purely ideological reasons,” Cardinal said at the Montreal rally. “They want to deny a decent retirement to young workers … We’re saying NO!”

The day after the demonstration, Quebec’s labour minister pledged to create an advisory committee to examine the merits of new legislation on the two-tier pension issue. The Local 6658 strikers were given a heroes’ welcome at the USW National Policy Conference, as well as $7,500 in individual donations from the conference floor and another $63,000 from various locals, including $40,000 from Local 9700 from the ABI smelter in Bécancour, Que.

This article appears in the June 2016 edition of USW@Work magazine.

As of posting this online version of the publication, an agreement has been reached with our members at USW Local 6658 and their employer.  

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