The Facts On The Pension Plan:
On May 15, 2014 Marno Mcinnes sent a letter to the chairman of the pension plan Ray Parsley , stating that ATU 615 has rejected the cities final offer on May,7 2014 and suggests to the chair of the plan that the board will have to refile and rescind the previous valuation and replace it with a new valuation reflecting no changes to ATU 615 members pension plan.
On June 13, 2014 Mr. Ray Parsley responded in a letter stating that they have rescinded and refiled a revised valuation reflecting no changes to ATU 615 members pension. In Ray Parsleys letter to all parties he states that the city acknowledges the liability and must make payments at least until a new valuation is to be filed.
ATU 615 sent a letter to the Chair of the pension plan on July 29, 2014 stating that we are in receipt of the revised valuation and letter stating that our benefits will remain unchanged and that the city will be making payments retroactive to Jan.1,2014.
ATU 615 has been threatened at the bargaining table that if the city makes these payments then the availability of back pay could be lost. We have stated in our letter to the chair of the pension plan to simply let us know when you have completed the necessary arrangements for the city to initiate the payments. The city now is stating that discussing our pension plan at the bargaining table was nonnegotiable. They simply are assuming we do not have to discuss pensions at all and they have gone on record stating that the union is changing our position on pension. There is nothing further from the truth.
We suggested at the time that we could potentially agree to those changes but the wage proposal must be better if we were to recommend these changes to our membership. No agreement was signed and obviously now, we are all aware that our pension plan is in a much different financial situation today ,then when we first started bargaining.
You are also aware that the city locked our members out and changed their position on simply leaving our pension plan unchanged, and proceeded to impose those changes through city council on Sept.22, 2014. At the time they felt they were in a legal lockout position and hence made the changes with the intent that the only way we would be allowed back to work is if we accepted these pension changes. It is our belief based on the advice of a reputable legal office who received advice from a reputable actuarial firm that our pension plan today is in a surplus position and that if brought current, it would show that the need for any special payments would not exist. All that would need to happen is for the plan to be updated with a most recent valuation to include all the plans assets up to date and the taxpayers would not have any special payments. Keep in Mind the reasons the city used to initiate this lockout. They used the fact that this need for a special payment existed, but could have easily remedied that problem by asking the board of trustees to simply refile a new valuation showing current assets.
On the issue of wages. Our last position at the table is as follows. We put forth a proposal on Feb.25,2016 asking for our Access members operators (38 positions) to be paid 50cents an hour for 2015 and 2016 in addition to the same wage package offered and accepted by the other unions. Currently they are paid $3.25 hr. less than our conventional operators. It is our belief that they deserve the same pay scale as the work they do is equally valued. The cities of Red Deer and Lethbridge agree as they have or will have wage parity between their operators before their agreements expire. Our Access operators earn$20.60 hr. currently. Our Access Scheduling and booking clerks (9 positions) are underpaid in comparison to our Dispatch area that has very similar duties at conventional transit and our proposal is to raise their rate of pay by 50cents per hour for 2015 and 2016
It appears that there is money to hire 2 full time additional supervisors for the same staffing levels, but in order to do that, the city has reduced service hours to the public. 65 hours per week have been cut from service at Access in comparison to last year at this time due to budgetary reasons. The same amounts of people continue to work there but they added 2 full time supervisor positions. Our proposal also contained wage adjustments for all journeyman trade positions to coincide with our mechanic pay scale. This includes our journeyman bodyman and machinist positions. (8 positions).
These wage adjustments would be implemented starting Jan.1, 2015. In addition to these wage adjustments our last position to the city was to not pursue the western Canadian averaging formula but to simply have a 45 cents an hour increase for all operators upon receiving their motor carrier passenger council of Canada driver certification starting June 1, 2016.
The city has stated we are professional drivers and hence we believe as professionals we should be compensated in accordance once we receive our certification. Currently today the western average wage rate for drivers as of 2015 is $28.18. This does not take into account that all 6 of these comparison cities will have new wage rates for 2016. These are the accurate facts surrounding what ATU 615 is seeking for our members.
Our defined benefit pension plan is in good financial shape and as always our members are willing to discuss ways to ensure viability of the plan. Having clearly defined benefits for retirement security is what we have had since 1964 and we are resolved to retain the structure as such. The shifting of the potential liabilities and risk of the pension funding directly on to the members and forever releasing the city from ever having to pay any more money into the plan than what is agreed today is unacceptable.
The ability to collectively bargain any future changes to our plan and keeping the plan sponsor(city of Saskatoon) the legal liable sponsor for any shortfalls is what has been in place prior to this round of bargaining and we as a union have always sat down at the table to ensure viability of the plan when we agree it needs to change. The financial position of our plan at the time of bargaining was not accurate and the need for special payments or a fundamental shift to a target benefit plan is unnescessary and unacceptable.
ATU 615 members have received overwhelming support both morally and financially from local unions and labor associations and as well from across the country . ATU international supports our fight to protect retirement security for our future and present members. We have been kicked out of the workplace and our members as well as the citizens of Saskatoon have been deprived of a service as a result of the city administration decision.
ATU 615 has fought and won a decision in our Saskatchewan Labor Board that found the city was guilty of illegally locking us out and the city taxpayers were forced to pay us $651,000 in wages for the first 2 weeks of the 4week lockout. We have unsuccessfully sought damages for the last 2 weeks pay as of right now and are in the process of determining as to whether we will appeal that decision.
By our estimation the costs of this lockout exceeds 3 million dollars, not to mention the suffering the citizens endured with losing their jobs, and not getting to where they needed to go and all other associated inconveniences and costs for travel. The University Students Union alone withheld $8800 dollars per day payment to the city for everyday that we were locked out because the city withdrew its service.
We are prepared to stand up for what is fair as long as it takes and the truth will prevail. We are proud of the work we do and want to settle our contract fairly by keeping our pension plan structure as it is and receiving fair wages for the work we do in relation to other western Canadian cities. We are at the bottom of the pay scale and by accepting the cities last offer ,we will still remain at the bottom. By our estimation it would cost approximately $500,000 to settle our contract over and above what has been previously offered to us. Less money than was paid to us for the first 2 weeks of lockout damages. Call your city councilor and ask them to settle the contract. Remember This is an election year for our elected city officials.
Jim Yakubowski President/Business Agent Local 615