On Tuesday, April 10th we hosted a telephone town hall from the Victoria Area Office to talk with members about the changes to the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) that were implemented April 1, 2018. We were joined in the VAO by representatives from the BC Pension Corporation and the Pension Secretariat. This bulletin summarizes some of the key points that came up during the town hall and provides resources for members to continue educating themselves and each other as we move forward under the new plan design.
We want to thank every one of the more than 3,000 members who participated in the town hall. We know that not everyone who had a question or a comment about the changes was able to participate and even those who did dial in may not have had a chance to speak with us directly but we appreciate that you all took time out of your busy lives to get informed.
These plan changes will directly impact every member of the BCGEU in the PSPP and we know that the vast majority of them will be better off under the new plan. In fact:
- The average member's pension will be 37% higher under the new plan than it would have been under the old plan.
- 95% of members retiring in next 5 years will get a higher pension under the new plan than they would have under the old plan.
- 99% of members retiring in next 2 years will get a higher pension under the new plan than they would have under the old plan.
But we also know change can be stressful and changes that impact family finances and retirement plans are particularly stressful. Our goal in hosting the town hall was to help ease that stress by making sure members have access to accurate information about the changes and reliable advice moving forward.
Whether you were on the call or not, we hope you'll find this bulletin informative and we encourage you to take advantage of the resources available to help you understand how the pension changes will impact you and your family. We would also ask that you help us by sharing this bulletin with colleagues in your workplace and with friends who are members of the BCGEU. The more people have access to the facts, the better.
- If you didn't have a chance to participate in the town hall, you can listen to an audio archive of the entire event here:
- If you have specific questions about how the changes will impact your individual pension plan, please contact the BC Pension Corporation.
- For other pension related questions, you can contact the BCGEU at firstname.lastname@example.org
- There is a pension plan Illustrator tool on the PSPP website that can estimate your pension under the new rules. As of May 1, 2018 there will be a pension calculator tool available. For more information, visit: https://pspp.pensionsbc.ca/
- To view the Pensions Corp presentation that explains this change, please click here.
TIMELINE OF PLAN CHANGES
- 2009: The BCGEU and the provincial government agree to discuss potential changes to the plan with the understanding that once a tentative agreement is reached the BCGEU would have 18 months to communicate changes to members.
- 2017 (late December): The Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) Board notifies plan partners—the BCGEU and the provincial government—of their intention to change the plan and gives plan partners 30 days to provide input. In spite of the tight timeline the BCGEU decides to support the interests of members by providing input rather than letting the Board make changes in isolation.
- The BCGEU meets the Board’s 30-day deadline and proposes changes that would improve the pensions of the vast majority of BCGEU members by removing unfair subsidies that benefitted the highest income earners in the plan at the expense of lower wage earners, including BCGEU members.
- The Board accepts the BCGEU’s changes but announces that the 18 month window for communicating with members is no longer an option and that changes must be implemented by fiscal year end, March 31, 2018.
FACTS ABOUT PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS
- The Public Sector Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) explicitly bars collective bargaining of pensions.
- The Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) Board has responsibility for designing and implementing plan changes. The PSPP board has the option of requesting input from plan partners on design changes. However, input from plan partners is not binding on the Board.
- Between the start of the BCGEU timeline in 2009 and the implementation of the changes on March 31, 2018, two other large public sector pension plans—the college plan and the teachers’ plan—implemented changes similar to those proposed by the BCGEU.
HIGHLIGHTS OF PLAN CHANGES
- The old plan design included two accrual rates –1.35% on earnings below the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) of $55,900, and 2% on earnings over the YMPE. This meant that under the old plan lower wage earners-such as BCGEU members-received a lower percentage of income as pension relative to higher wage earners-such as excluded managers who were also part of the plan.
- The new plan design levels the playing field by applying a single, higher accrual rate for all pensionable income.
- The impact will be that all BCGEU members will see an increase in their accrual rate and thanks to that increase members working at or below the YMPE will see a 37% increase in their lifetime pension on service after April 1, 2018.
- The accrual rate for service from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2018 for all earnings below YMPE will be retroactively increased from 1.35% to 1.65%. The impact will be a 22.2% increase in lifetime pensions on a go-forward basis, from October 1, 2019.
Early retirement, the Rule of 85, and the bridging benefit
- All service up to March 31, 2018 is governed by the old plan rules, including the bridging benefit and the Rule of 85.
- Under the new plan, the Rule of 85 and the bridging benefit will not apply to service accrued after March 31, 2018. However, members still have the right to retire with an unreduced pension as early as 55 years of age with 35 years of service.
- The long-term impact of the loss of Rule of 85 and the bridging benefit is offset by a higher total pension value for BCGEU members.
- Members who need the higher pre-65 pension value that was provided by the bridging benefit under the old plan can use a temporary annuity to access some of the higher post-65 total pension value of the new plan before they turn 65. We have asked the Pension Plan to make this process easier for members to understand.
- Under the new plan design the 6.2% "early retirement reduction factor" applies to service after March 31, 2018 and is "benefit neutral". That means members who can afford to retire early will pay a fair cost to do so and will no longer be subsidized by those who must continue working.