After members of the Local Authorities Pension Plan and other Alberta public service pension plans waited decades, Premier Rachel Notley told close to 1,000 members of United Nurses of Alberta this morning that her NDP government would keep a promise made by Conservatives 26 years ago.
The Progressive Conservative Government of Premier Don Getty promised in 1992 the plans would be put under employee-employer joint governance. This was ignored by his Conservative successors.
When the Legislature returns next month, Premier Notley vowed, her NDP government will introduce legislation that will finally allow the LAPP to be jointly governed by the those who contribute to it – employers of LAPP members and the public employees enrolled in the pension plan. The LAPP is the main retirement security plan for most members of UNA.
“I’m pretty sure many of you will remember what it looks like to have a government that doesn’t fight for working people,” Notley said by way of introduction, reminding the nurses at UNA’s Annual General Meeting of the plan by the Conservative government of Alison Redford to make changes that would have undermined the stability of the LAPP.
The Redford government plan had included a cap on contributions that would have made it difficult to keep the plan healthy in the event of a market crash, penalties imposed on employees who wished to retire early, and three tiers of public-sector pension – good for some male dominated occupations, not so good for female dominated professions, and less secure for new employees.
The two bills put forward by the PCs, Notley said, “were designed by the old government to fundamentally undercut your pensions and your future.”
“I was a member of the Opposition at the time,” Notley recalled, “and you may remember the filibuster that we had in the Legislature, along with the support of thousands of people outside the Legislature, many of you, to delay and eventually kill these attacks on workers and their pensions and their union.”
The bills were withdrawn in September 2014 by PC premier Jim Prentice, who promised he would not reintroduce them. However, the security provided by joint governance remained a dream.
“Well, my friends,” Notley told the AGM, “when the Legislature comes back next month … we will be introducing some pension legislation of our own.
“We want to ensure instead that you have joint governance of your pension plan because it is only right. When pensions receive contributions from both the employer and the employee, they should be jointly governed by both the employer and the employee,” she said.
“You deserve your seat at the table and you deserve an equal say on your pensions and your futures,” Premier Notley said.
During her remarks, Premier Notley also spoke repeatedly of the NDP Government’s commitment to health care and the people who deliver it, contrasting that to the actions of past governments.
“Public health care requires constant vigilance,” she told the nurses. “In the past, we’ve seen the effects of the ever-present calls for reckless cuts and privatization. Hospitals blown up. Nurses fired. And we’ve seen a whole lot of decisions that put privatization ahead of the needs of patients and families.
“Under us, that’s been brought to an end,” she asserted.
“We don’t agree with the cut and fire approach. All it does is put more people out of work when the economy is already losing jobs. And it also undercuts very important services. Instead of cutting and firing, we’re building and hiring,” she said to applause.
Premier Notley promised the nurses: “We will always be there to defend you, and your patients, and our health care system.”