Steelworkers on Parliament Hill to Put “Retirees First”

OTTAWA – Rank-and-file members of the United Steelworkers (USW) from across Canada are back on Parliament Hill for two weeks to meet with MPs and senators and ask for a commitment to put protection for retired workers on the platform of every political party in the 2019 election.

“Despite some minor measures to help pensioners generally, the 2019 federal budget was silent on any commitment to protect workers and retirees by treating them as secured creditors in bankruptcy and bankruptcy protection laws,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “After experiencing the effects of current laws that do not protect retirees’ pensions and benefits, our members are committed to campaigning for a more secure future.” 

Neumann added that, 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 goes 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 and senators focus 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 late last year, also aims to grant priority status for pension claims.

The fourth bill, introduced by a Conservative MP, proposes only amending the 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,” said 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.

“This pre-election period is the time to commit to correcting this terrible imbalance.”

The USW represents more than 225,000 men and women working in every sector of Canada’s economy.


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Pat Van Horne, USW Legislative Representative, 613-731-6315, 613-859-1763 (c), pvanhorne@usw.ca

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