Angry. That’s how Réseau FADOQ felt when it learned that Groupe Capitales Médias workers and retirees have an axe over their heads.
All the scenarios proposed for saving the company’s six newspapers involve terminating Groupe Capitales Médias’ loss-making pension plans, resulting in grave consequences. The most dramatic scenario is a drastic one-third drop in benefits for hundreds of retirees starting January 1, 2020.
Have we reached a point where we’re willing to passively accept the collapse of pension plans and the immense upheaval it causes for retirees? Shouldn’t we take a moment to ask ourselves what our governments could be doing to prevent these situations?
Governments need to wake up to the fact that the plight of Groupe Capitales Médias retirees is just the most recent chapter in a sad list of failures that includes Sears, MABE, and Singers, just to name a few. In each case, the workers were cheated. In order to break this pattern, changes must be made to the current legislative framework.
At the provincial level, Réseau FADOQ is asking the Legault government to introduce a pension fund insurance plan similar to the one in Ontario. Under that model, employers pay for insurance at a variable rate based on the funding of their pension plan. In the event of the termination of a loss-making plan, pension fund insurance pays out benefits to pensioners whose fund has been cut.
The same debate needs to take place federally. That’s why Réseau FADOQ campaigned strongly during the last election for better pension fund protection. One of our main electoral proposals was a call to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to raise pension funds to the status of secured creditors.
Workers and retirees’ interests must take priority. They aren’t responsible for the deficits, so they shouldn’t end up as collateral damage when their employers go belly up. It’s unfortunate that pension plan deficits are currently considered ordinary debts. We must act fast to change public perceptions and amend the legislation.