TORONTO, ON – Today, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) filed a legal challenge with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) about OMERS’ treatment of paramedic members accessing earlier retirement options.
“Paramedics have been demanding that OMERS allow them fair access to earlier retirement options for over a decade,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, about the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. “Now OMERS is saying working paramedics can transition to earlier retirement options only at the risk of deep cuts to their pensions. This is completely unacceptable, and these front-line workers simply deserve better.”
Paramedics are recognized in federal law as a Public Safety Occupation, a designation that according to the Canada Revenue Agency acknowledges their working conditions as situations “where the limitations associated with ageing are common and have the potential to significantly endanger the safety of the general public”. Paramedics are eligible for earlier retirement options under federal law if their pension plan allows it.
“Access to earlier retirement is a health and safety issue for paramedics on the front lines and for the people we serve in the community,” said Peter Joseph, an active paramedic and chair of CUPE’s Ambulance Committee of Ontario. “Our work as paramedics takes an enormous physical and mental toll, and OMERS is refusing to recognize that reality.”
“Ontario pension law dictates that the value of a worker’s accrued defined pension benefit can’t be reduced but we believe that OMERS is doing just that with its rules for paramedic members’ transition to earlier retirement options,” said Hahn. “It’s our hope that this challenge will reverse OMERS rules that shortchange paramedics and ensure they have access to what they’re entitled to: earlier retirement options and a decent retirement.”
CUPE has raised these concerns with OMERS for months and has attempted to work with the pension fund on a solution.
CUPE represents more than 5,000 paramedics across the province. CUPE Ontario is the largest sponsor of OMERS, representing 125,000 plan members.
- In OMERS, there are Normal Retirement Age 65 (NRA 65) members and Normal Retirement Age 60 (NRA 60) members. Normal Retirement Age (NRA) refers to the age you can receive an unreduced pension. There are different retirement rules for NRA 65 and NRA 60 members. NRA 65 members can retire with an unreduced pension at the earliest of age 65, or 30 years of service, or “90 factor”. The earliest retirement age for a NRA 65 member is age 55. NRA 60 members can retire with an unreduced pension at the earliest of age 60, or 30 years of service, or “85 factor”. The earliest retirement age for a NRA 60 member is age 50.
- OMERS prohibited unions representing paramedics from negotiating earlier retirement options with employers from 2005 to 2020. Meanwhile, police and firefighters in the plan already had earlier retirement options for many decades. OMERS finally extended this right to paramedic members starting January 1, 2021. However, OMERS’ rules for transitioning paramedic members from NRA 65 to NRA 60 put members at risk of a reduced pension value.
- FSRA is the independent pension regulator in Ontario whose mandate includes protecting pension benefits and administering pension law.
- The intention of the Public Safety Occupation designation is described by the Canada Revenue Agency in the CRA External Technical Interpretation 2002-0119025.
For more information, please contact:
Zaid Noorsumar, CUPE Communications, 647-995-9859, [email protected]