Retired teachers call for ‘justice’
The Retired Teachers’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is concerned with the stand that government has taken by denying to meet and discuss pension enhancements with the groups that represent retired teachers and other retired public sector workers.
For many, inflation has eroded pensions to the point that some are facing poverty. For others who retired during the wage freezes of 1989 to 1997, pensions are depressed compared to their peers who retired later.
Moreover, questionable pension fund management and “contribution holidays” on the part of government demand that there be a positive adjustment to our pensions.
There has to be some justice to compensate for a 50 per cent increase in the cost-ofliving and a corresponding devaluation of 54 per cent of our pensions. Twenty-one years is a long time to wait for improvements to the incomes of those who worked for the people and their provincial government through often hard times.
Our association believes that redress is due because our former employer mismanaged our pension funds. However, the need of a positive adjustment of our pensions must not be confused with government’s obligation, as a government, to ensure a fair and humane environment for all seniors.
Government has to approach the issue of our pensions as the former employer which has ethical and moral obligations to right past wrongs. It is true that as a result of the Atlantic Accord, government was able to apply over $3 billion into the pension plans. However, this was not enough to cover the losses due to the previous mismanagement. Moreover, the move was also designed to forestall the collapse of the pension plans which would have had a negative impact on the government’s reputation. In addition, even with that contribution, which only partially compensated for past failures to build a comprehensive financial basis for the pension plans, the funds remain underfunded.
The fact is that the government did not live up to its legal, contractual, moral and ethical obligations.
The members of the RTANL and the affiliated partners in the coalition call upon the government to accept its responsibility to rectify the inequities that mark the present public sector pensions situation. These are due, not to the failure of the former workers to live up to their obligations, but rather they are due to past governmental mismanagement.
The principles of fairness and good faith must be applied to the present pensions’ predicament. All parties to the pension contract must act in good faith and rather than hiding behind public policy, government must come to the table as the former employer, ready to apply the same principles by which it wishes to be judged.
Geraldine Wall, president Retired Teachers’ Association of