CANADA - Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations (NSAHO) CEO Robert Cook described the decision of four unions to file grievances against the organisation over pension fund issues as "surprising", given that all four unions held seats on the C$2bn NSAHO pension plan's trustee board.
CUPE, NSNU, NSGEU and CAW last week alleged the terms of their member contracts were changed when employers unilaterally used the pension fund surpluses for their own benefits, but Cook said:
“It is important to point out that each of the four unions has held a seat on the Pension Plan Trustees for the past eight years. Given that they have been party to all of the decisions of the trustees during this time period, their recent actions have been quite surprising.”
The NSAHO also disputed the claim employers had used the plan surplus to make their own contributions to the plan. Cook said employers had consistently maintained or increased contributions to ensure that the health of the plan was maintained.
Speaking about the surplus issue, Cook said the unions had suggested that plan surpluses be used exclusively to improve benefits, but stressed the issue of sustainability was of critical importance.
“There is a growing number of defined benefit plans in this country that are being forced to not only hike contributions, but to reduce benefits in order to address large unfunded liabilities,” he said.
When asked what the NSAHO felt should be done with the surplus, Cook answered: “We believe plan surpluses should be used to provide competitive benefits and to ensure the plan remains both affordable and sustainable for employees and employers who contribute. This careful balancing of interests is the responsibility of the Pension Plan Trustees and they have done an outstanding job.”
By Damian Clarkson
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