After more than a year of hearings, all that remains is a decision as to whether CBC pensioners and employees will get a share of last year’s declared pension plan surplus. The arbitrator, Justice Dennis O’Connor, has directed the parties to submit arguments in writing between now and April 12. A final hearing will be held so he can question legal counsel.
THE PARTIES AND THEIR POSITIONS
The arbitrator will decide whether an agreement reached by the CBC with the PNA and its unions remains valid, and whether the conditions requiring the sharing of pension surpluses have been met.
The CBC’s position is that the agreement expired on December 31, 2019, and that the parties must reach a new agreement. Though the agreement contains no expiry date, the CBC seeks to have the arbitrator agree that it was within its rights to unilaterally terminate the agreement.
The PNA seeks to have the arbitrator rule that the agreement remains in full force and CBC must honour all provisions. The PNA and the unions maintain that:
- The deal continues to be in force, based on the language in the agreement. This stipulates that the parties must review the agreement every ten years, beginning in 2019.
- They fulfilled their obligations to conduct a review of the MOA between June and December of 2019.
- The agreement was designed to resolve the issue of pension surplus sharing once and for all.
THE END OF ARBITRATION IS IN SIGHT
The historic deal reached in 2008 between the PNA, the CBC and its unions was meant to end decades of conflict about the sharing of pension surpluses. To make it happen, for more than a decade, employees – union and management – contributed more than $40 million into a health care fund designed to protect health benefits and cushion CBC against unexpectedly high costs. After spending more than $400 thousand on a class action lawsuit, the PNA withdrew its actions, and entered into a good faith bargaining exercise. The unions withdrew more than 20 grievances and pending arbitrations, also with the goal of reaching an agreement in good faith.
The end is in sight but sadly, it will come too late for several hundred PNA members who are no longer with us to celebrate or to share fully in the benefits of a surplus they spent a lifetime creating. We hope that CBC will show respect for its retirees and employees by not prolonging the process once Arbitrator O’Connor issues his decision. We can reasonably expect a decision within a couple of months of the hearing date. We believe we will win this arbitration because the facts, the arguments and the law are on our side.
Donald Langis, Interim President, CBC Pensioners National Association