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Will 'panicked' gov't break contract with workers?

Moncton Times and Transcript 03/21/2013, Page D08

To The Editor : Whatever happened to the term 'bargaining in good faith'? It seems the issue of pension reform is reaching much further than merely recognizing that perhaps some actuary was not too sharp when the pension deals were struck.

Consequently things need to be brought into alignment and now it's going into panic mode, searching for every nickel the government can avoid paying out. I seem to recall bargaining sessions where 'benefits' were agreed upon as an alternative to immediate payments such as salary increases. Many public servants have likely been faced with some situation where they were told by government that they were unable to accommodate requests because 'their hands were tied by rules or regulation.' I personally was faced with wishing to alter terms of retirement date, and was reminded I had signed a document that was irreversible and that government pension plan rules could not be changed; 'cast in concrete' was the actual term used to describe how solid the pension plan rules are. It may well be the case the public pension plan is not viable or costly for government, but it was the same pension experts who made the deal in the first place now asserting these positions.

The remedy is not to be found by going back on agreements made in good faith by both sides. I am certain if it were discovered the pension contributions were producing far greater returns than anticipated, we would not find anyone rushing forward to enhance benefits. Perhaps those critics in the private sector may remember when there were many years public servants had zero increases to very minimal increases. It seems strange those in the private sector whose pension plans have fallen prey to economic uncertainty would now wish the same disaster upon others. I would suggest they might consider lending support to anyone who might find their pension or investment plans in jeopardy to ensure this kind of unethical deal-making does not happen to their children and soon-to-be-retired workers.

Government may now recognize it needs to get out of the investment/pension business, but not by throwing its retirees under the bus and walking away.

There are responsibilities that government must uphold regarding its commitments. The result should be that all employees can rely on signed agreements and not fall prey to the crisis of the week.

Ian Hamilton, Moncton

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