Members of CUPE Local 233 (maintenance, grounds, and custodial workers) and OPSEU Local 596 (Academic & Administrative Supports, Research Assistants) at Toronto Metropolitan University are up against an employer bent on creating an unfair and inequitable pension plan, and on suppressing their wages at a time of record inflation.

Traditionally, employers and unions negotiate any increase in employee contributions to a pension plan. And in a single-employer defined benefit pension like this one, the employer is responsible for any shortfall. It’s one of many reasons why we fought hard to establish defined benefit plans for as many workers as possible across Canada.

But in 2021, Toronto Metropolitan University unilaterally increased the amount workers are paying – with no negotiation with the unions. Following arbitration, the University corrected their error for faculty members, but not with any other workers.

As a result, workers are paying more than faculty for the same pension. This two-tier pension structure is clearly unfair.

At the same time, the university secretly began claiming any pension contributions made by them *or by employees* above the legal minimum required as an employer-only “credit.” So, while hiking payments for workers, the university is claiming the pension owes the employer $8 million. Instead of negotiating higher rates to cover a pension shortfall, TMU is unilaterally raising employee contributions and then, apparently, claiming that money as its own.

Dear Dr. Lachemi,

I am deeply concerned that Toronto Metropolitan University has acted unilaterally to create inequity within its workforce by denying the same pension provisions to CUPE members that it does to faculty. Beyond this, I am disturbed to learn that TMU has raised employee pension contributions while claiming $8 million of pension money as a “credit” owing uniquely to the employer.

This is not in keeping with the history of TMU, which has always sought to lift people up through education and training, which has a strong tradition of promoting equity, and which just declared that “Now is a time to recommit to the values that define us.”

Keeping wages for working people below inflation as the cost of living in Toronto soars means you have the wrong values. If extending one set of pension rules and a lower contribution rate to faculty than to rank-and-file workers is part of your vision, then you have abandoned the school’s core values.

I call on you to take immediate steps to avoid labour disruption in April by going back to the negotiating table with a fair deal on wages and pensions for CUPE members that reflects the core values that this university has long espoused.



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