Make ‘Retirees First’ an Election Issue: Steelworkers

OTTAWA – After meeting with more than 150 Members of Parliament, rank-and-file members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) from across Canada left Ottawa this week hoping that protection for retired workers will be on the agenda of every political party in the 2019 election.

“After experiencing the effects of current bankruptcy and bankruptcy protection laws that do not protect retirees’ pensions and benefits, our members are committed to campaigning for a more secure future,” says USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“Besides high-profile cases such as Nortel in Ottawa, Stelco in Hamilton and Sears in most communities across Canada, workers are increasingly afraid to retire. They know how unsecure their pensions and benefits may be if a company enters restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) or go bankrupt. 

“Pensions are deferred wages and, by the time banks and other creditors are paid, there is nothing left for workers. It amounts to theft.”

Neumann said all Canadians should be outraged by the treatment of older Canadians by laws that protect companies, but force workers to assume all the risk in insolvency.

The meetings with MPs focused on a series of recent bills currently before the House of Commons and the Senate. Two of them, one sponsored by the New Democratic Party, another by the Bloc Québecois, are aimed at reforming the CCAA and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) to give priority to claims by workers arising out of an underfunded pension plan and the elimination of benefits.

Another bill, introduced in the Senate by now-retired Art Eggleton, also aims to grant priority status for pension claims.

The fourth bill, introduced by a Conservative MP, proposes only amending CCAA to allow ‘agreement’ before a company implements so-called “key employment retention plans” (KERPs), in other words senior management. It does not address retiree pensions and benefits owed.

“The legislative principles that should be supported by all MPs are ones that protect workers,” says Neumann. “These are exactly the people the government refers to as ‘the middle class and those who want to join it.’ Many millions of dollars were paid out to Nortel, Sears and Stelco executives. Meanwhile, workers and retirees had their benefits cut off, and lost vacation, severance and termination pay.

“It is time to correct this terrible imbalance.”


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Pat Van Horne, USW Legislative Representative, 613-731-6315, 613-859-1763 (cell);

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