Why the Union Wants You to have a Choice and Protection

October 10, 2019

The Union’s position on the pension has been consistent from day one, we want the members to have choice and protection to ensure pension security for every members.  We have all heard the Company rhetoric, they are giving us the doom and gloom scenario again about the future of oil refining.  Whether you believe them or not isn’t the point.  The point is that the decisions that affect your financial future should be your choice. 

Choice and protection are simple concepts.  If you choose to stay on the defined benefit plan you need protection so they can’t steal your pension in the future.  The Company hasn’t done very much in the last six years to build a trust relationship with the membership.  We simply want pension security for those who choose the DB pension like they were promised when they began working at the plant. 

Why should you be forced to switch pension plans when your entire career at the Co-op you have been planning to retire on a defined benefit pension.  It changes the way you may have invested over the years and you have planned your entire life around it.  It isn’t reasonable to force somebody who possibly has only five years left to completely change the financial outlook of their future and possibly work longer to retire with the same benefits.

If you are younger or maybe want to move to the different plan because you are not certain about the future of oil refining, or maybe you think the DC pension is better because you want to manage your own money after retirement, then you should you have the option to switch to the DC?  Why should you be forced to switch?  Why should you be pitted against your Union Sisters and Brothers, who want to stay on the DB?  It might better suit your lifestyle, but the Company doesn’t need to be pitting you against your coworkers in order to switch to a DC pension.  All the Union is asking for is choice and protection.

The other refineries that we are benchmarked against for pension costing have all gone through this before.  For many years now, other refineries have been switching from DB to DC pensions.  Most made the transition exactly how we did during the 2016 contract negotiations.  The plan was closed to new hires and the remaining DB people stayed on through legacy plans.  To this day the other refineries they are comparing us against have workers on DB pensions.  Some have also come back and tried to buy their DB people out of the pension plans, reducing their pension liabilities and costs and every time it has remained voluntary.  The only difference at the Co-op Refinery is that they were behind the rest of the industry yet again and now they are having their typical knee-jerk reaction to it and they need it now!

In the year 2019, we have choices.  Everywhere we go choices exist for all aspects of our lives.  Why should our employer not follow suit with that and offer a choice?  If they offer the choice and protection, the Union will happily meet with them to figure out how to make the best transition for those members who want to switch to the DC.  The Co-op wants us to talk with them on how to improve the DC pension to ensure there is a switch, and all we want is the guarantee that the people who choose to stay on the DB are protected.  If we get those two guarantees we will talk pension.  We will help them to reduce their pension liabilities significantly, possibly by half or more, but we don’t trust them enough to enter those talks before the voluntary switch and protections are agreed to.  It is a reasonable thing to expect from an employer who has made $2.5 Billion dollars in profits in the last three years. 

All we are asking for is the members of 594 to have the Choice.

In Solidarity,

Unifor 594 Bargaining Committee

PS: What can you do? Take action on the ideas at#SupportUnifor594 and share them far and wide. And keep spreading the word about Respect for Refinery Workers and a #FairDeal!