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Pension plan project takes another step forward

Work continues on the multi-university initiative to create a multi-employer, jointly-sponsored pension plan for the university sector in Ontario.

Currently, a group comprising three universities – Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and University of Guelph – has been formed and is charged with finalizing the outstanding design and governance elements of the University Pension Project (UPP).

Once finalized, all Ontario universities will have the option to participate in the sector jointly sponsored pension plan. Participation on the part of any university would be voluntary and would require the consent of plan members.

At Queen’s, a joint working group between the university and its employee groups continues to meet, most recently on March 1, and work on the issues surrounding the UPP. The joint working committee was formed as a result of a memorandum of agreement signed by the parties during the last round of collective bargaining in August 2015. It is co-chaired by Al Orth, special adviser for Queen’s for the UPP and the former associate vice-principal (Human Resources), and Paul Young, chair of the pension committee for the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA), member of the OCUFA consultative group on the UPP, and a professor in the Department of Biology.

Whether or not Queen’s eventually decides to participate in the plan, some things remain constant. Individual pension benefits that have already been earned are guaranteed under law, so anyone moving to a new jointly sponsored pension plan, such as the UPP, will keep what they have already earned. Pensions already in payment are also guaranteed never to be reduced.

BACKGROUND

Queen’s currently has a pension deficit of $285 million on a solvency basis, a hypothetical scenario that assumes Queen’s closes its doors and terminates the pension plan. In 2015 Queen’s received stage two solvency relief and opted to defer payments on the solvency deficit for three years, but then would have to pay down the entire balance over the following seven.

During the three-year deferral period, the university will build a reserve fund to offset the impact of the solvency payments that would begin in 2018 if the University Pension Project is not successful. In addition, the university is still required to make payments on the plan’s $175-million deficit calculated on a going concern basis (assumes the plan continues to operate).

The UPP was originally led by the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, with the active participation of individual universities and bargaining units. The project has received funding from the Government of Ontario.

More information about the Queen’s Pension Plan is available on the Human Resources website. Anyone with pension-related questions may contact Bob Weisnagel, Director, Pension Services, by email or at ext. 74184.