Diane Francis | 10/10/29 | More from Diane Francis
OTTAWA — Jocelyn Dumais is a Gatineau contractor and for years he has championed workers rights’ against the powerful labor union, the CCQ (Commission de la construction du Quebec) and Quebec’s closed-shop laws.
The province requires all construction workers to belong to a union or to get a special exemption, which is about as hard to obtain as a green card. Workers in Quebec have been fined, even jailed, for the crime of working without union cards or exemptions. So years ago, Jocelyn took the abuse of workers to the Supreme Court.
His argument was that if the charter protected the freedom to assemble and join a union then it should also protect the freedom not to do so. He lost and so, frankly, did the country.
Now he’s taking on the CCQ again over its workers’ pension fund.
“For years the union, and labor officials, have been chasing people for working and putting them in jail for not belonging to the union and they are not chasing the people who deserve a pension so they can get one,” he said.
Jocelyn worked for two months in a union construction job in Quebec in 1971 and is entitled to a pension in ten years’ time when he reaches the age of 65 for the paltry amount of $1.30 per month.
“I’m supposed to have acess to all information, but it took me ten years go get it,” he said. “The same with other people who they do not contact and deserve big pensions. Here’s a union that has arrested so many people for not joining it and yet when you do and need their pension they will ignore you.”
Once he got the information he discovered that CCQ pension losses are staggering and he may be lucky to get any pension.
Between Dec. 31, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009, assets dropped to $7,484,672,000 from $8,416,964,000, according to actuary AON Conseil. The plan’s accumulated shortfall is $3.358 billion or nearly half what’s there.
This is not unique because pensions everywhere have been hit hard due to the meltdown, but this one was told to increase employer contributions from $2.85 to $6.15 an hour in 2006 before the financial meltdown.
Why the permissiveness?
“In five years the money will be gone? All hell will break loose,” said Dumais in a recent interview. “People in their sixties are okay but there will be no money for people in their twenties.”
He also says it’s unfair to ignore those entitled to pensions who are no longer members of the union, like him, or who live outside the province. Some 230,000 are “inactive participants” but entitled to payments upon retirement.
There are now 77,000 pensioners or widows getting pension. There are 149,000 active workers contributing to future pensions. The 230,000 “inactive participants” raises another question in Dumais’ mind: Their unclaimed pensions are supposed to be transferred to the Quebec pension Plan or the Canada Pension Plan if they are not Quebec residents.
“How can they transfer to the CPP if they don’t contact anyone? Why are not the 230,000 like me getting the annual report which they are entitled to by law? Why is it so hard to get one? Why have there been no corrective measures?”
Good questions all.