ATU 615 – It’s time for fairness, transparency, and facts in Saskatoon City Hall
As Saskatonians prepare to make a big decision about our collective futures, ATU 615 urges the public to stand for the virtues that have been sorely lacking in City Hall for the past thirteen years. Fairness, transparency, and facts are the things this community values, but Mayor Don Atchison and his supporters, like the North Saskatoon Business Association, have refused to consider.
Attached to this statement is a copy of an analysis of the General Superannuation Plan for the City Of Saskatoon employees. ATU 615 members sanctioned our union to seek from a certified outside actuarial firm an analysis with respect to the funded status of our plan. Ironically, on September 22,2014— two days into the illegal lockout — I addressed city council at the special meeting during which council imposed changes to our pension without negotiating an agreement. I put forth a proposal that council halt the lockout and seek an outside actuarial opinion. They refused to do so. Thus, in September of 2016, we were provided this document. There is no disputing the accuracy of the numbers therein, as Optimum simply utilized previous pension valuations filed as well the audited financial statements prepared by Deloitte Touche.
There are many key findings in this report. Most notably, our pension plan was in not in the dire financial state suggested by city administration at the time that the 9 labour groups were bargaining in December of 2013. On Page 5, the Optimum report states, “Given that the negotiations were being held in late 2013 and early 2014, the surplus position of the plan as at Dec.2013 (54 million) should have been disclosed by the city, as quarterly updates of the plan’s funded status can easily be provided by actuaries within a quarter of month end.” The document goes on to say “Negotiations should not have been based on out-dated figures.(Dec 31,2012 deficit of 14.9 million versus a Dec.31,2013 surplus of 54million.) “
Fast forward nine months later. In September of 2014, ATU members were illegally locked out, and the city claimed they had a huge 6.9 million liability payment of $90,000 per month because of its failure to reach an agreement. Legally, they were required to make at least one payment, but they simply could have eliminated any need for further payments by filing a new valuation reflecting the true financial picture of the plan as of September, 2014. Instead, council chose to force economic hardship on our members, bus riders, citizens and businesses, all in an effort to force our members into relinquishing our defined benefit security, even though they knew our plan was financially healthier than what was relayed at the bargaining table. NSBA, in its recent statement, says, “Clearly nowhere in the big picture is there room for defined benefit plans.” This is only true if you are looking at the big picture through an ideological fog.
Since 1964, civic employees (except police, fire) have been negotiating this plan to ensure its sustainability and overall financial health. We have deferred our wages into this plan on the basis we can retire with dignity and security. Our members have also joined the Canadian Labour Congress in fighting for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (coincidentally, one of the most successful defined benefit plans in the world) so that all citizens of Canada can retire without living below the poverty line.
Here in Saskatchewan, the city of Regina, which has an indisputable 200 million dollar deficit in their plan, still provides a defined benefit for members, because the parties successfully negotiated terms and conditions protecting the security.
In summary, the NSBA endorsement of Mayor Atchison and his administration’s attacks on our healthy, well-funded plan and its dishonest claims that “the well is going to run dry” are disappointing to say the least. The Optimum report clearly states that, ”Given the surplus situation in 2013-2015 on a mark to market basis, it seems the city took advantage of out-dated valuation results to attempt to change the benefit promise from a defined benefit to a target benefit plan.”
Mayor Don Atchison is on public record (Global TV) stating “your word is your bond” in reference to me after the illegal lockout. This is one statement that I can agree with Don Atchison. You have my word that these are the facts and truths surrounding our fight for fairness. I have been raised to always speak the truth and believe the truth will prevail. The citizens of Saskatoon have been misled and used as pawns by our current decision makers, and their tax dollars have been wasted by these actions. If truth, transparency and fairness are leadership qualities you desire, then we must cast our ballots on Wednesday for a new direction.
No matter the outcome, ATU 615 will continue to fight for fairness, transparency, and facts on all issues affecting our members and our riders.
President Atu Local 615