Ottawa, ON – It was somewhat fitting on the 150th anniversary of Canada’s first Parliament, NDP Finance Critic Scott Duvall introduced a Private Member’s Bill to save workers’ pensions.
“This bill is designed to amend the Company’s Creditors Arrangement Act which currently permits legalized theft of workers’ pensions when an employer files for bankruptcy,” Duvall told a crowd of protestors on the steps of Parliament Hill. “When it comes to creditors, workers are at the bottom of the list. The lenders get their money, the shareholders are compensated and the executives get their bonuses but the workers get nothing. Remember these pension plans are deferred wages on money that was earned, it’s the workers’ money, not the employers.”
“In our view the law must be changed,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President Stan Pickthall. “The law must be changed to put the workers at the top of that compensation list. The Sears Canada bankruptcy is only the most recent example. It highlights the problem in the starkest terms.”
Duvall’s bill amends the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) to ensure that claims in respect of unfunded liabilities or solvency deficiencies of a pension plan are accorded priority in the event of bankruptcy proceedings. It also provides that an employer has to maintain group insurance programs that provide benefits to or in respect of its employees or former employees. The NDP introduced a similar bill when the Conservatives under Stephen Harper were in power and at that time the NDP was the official opposition. The Liberals said they would support the motion, but when it came to a vote, the Liberals voted with the Conservatives and the bill was defeated.
Speaking outside the House of Commons, Duvall said the theft must stop. “I’m asking all of the members to put aside their political differences to support this amendment. After the Bill was introduced Monday afternoon it received first reading however there is no indication when a second reading will occur.