UNIFAITH

Faith Workers Community Chapter

United Church of Canada



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    President@ Unifaith.ca  +  416-840-3211            

    Treasurer@ Unifaith.ca +  Website@ Unifaith.ca  +  Secretary @Unifaith.ca

    Unifor [Unifaith Community Chapter], 354476 Mill Line Ingersoll, ON N5C 3J5

    © 2017 www.Unifaith.ca

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Bully in the Church Workshop

Letter 1. Good News / Bad News

Dear UCC Pension Plan member,

Good news!

By now, you have likely received a notice from the Board of the United Church Pension Plan announcing a survey. The Board wants your input on the management, administration, operation and communications of the Pension Board. That’s the good news.

The Not so Good News:

   United Church Pension Plan excerpt *

The Administrator may in its discretion make amendments to the Plan, which reduce in value or which affect prejudicially any right, option or benefit entitlement accrued under the Plan on and after January 1, 2011. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Administrator may in its discretion make amendments to the Plan which reduce or affect prejudicially any pension increase, pension update or other benefit improvement made on or after January 1, 2011 in respect of Credited Service before or after January 1, 2011. For greater clarity, the Administrator's power to amend the Plan under this section 14.02(c) may be exercised irrespective of the funded status of the Plan at any time. (The text of the Pension Plan of the United Church of Canada, Amended and Restated as of January 1, 2016: Section 14.02 {c}.

 Some serious concerns

Some serious concerns about our pensions and its governance by the Church came to our attention last spring, and we have been working on a campaign about them ever since:

▪ General Council Executive changed our plan from defined benefit to targeted benefit without consulting us. The new language is in the inset box, above, and there is more about this below.*

▪ There hasn’t been an upgrade (pension increase) for ten years, and there isn’t one planned for next year.

▪ Many pension plans are accountable to members through an advisory committee. But not the United Church Pension Plan.

 

▪General Council Executive changed our plan from defined benefit to targeted benefit without consulting us. The new language is in the inset box, above, and there is more about this below.*

▪There hasn’t been an upgrade (pension increase) for ten years, and there isn’t one planned for next year.

▪Many pension plans are accountable to members through an advisory committee. But not the United Church Pension Plan.

Who are we?

We are Unifaith, a community chapter of Unifor. We are an association of United Church faith workers and their families. (Unifor, as you may know, is Canada’s largest private sector union.) We’ve been working for the well being of our members and others for fifteen years, and became a Unifor community chapter four years ago. Unifaith has been investigating these concerns on your behalf for almost a year. Our approach to the General Council Office to talk about them was not successful. More about that next time. Coincidentally, the Pension Board has been wondering about its relationship with Plan members. With the consultation just launched by Morneau Shepell on behalf of the Pension Board, we all have a chance to let the General Council Executive and the Board know our thoughts and feelings.

What now?

Unifaith has done the background work. We can help inform your participation in the survey (and focus groups). For example, the United Church survey asks for feedback on the adequacy of its communication with members. Based on the first of our concerns listed above, about the softening of the very basis of our pension plan six years ago, unknown to most of us, how can we answer yes, the Board’s communication is adequate?? We will be back to you in a few days with thoughts on the other questions on the survey. Our goal is to ensure that we all get the pensions, and the assurance in retirement, we thought we had.

cc. Unifaith

We would like to hear any comments you make on the Pension Board survey, if you wish to share them. Simply cut and paste your remarks and send them to Unifaith (secretary@unifaith.ca). We will compile all the comments, anonymously, in our own list of member thoughts about the Plan. This will be helpful when we do get a meeting with pension administration.

Sincerely,

Rev. Robin Wardlaw - President

Rev. Dr. Chris Levan - Vice President

*In 2011, the General Council Executive authorized a change to the Pension Plan permitting the Board to reduce benefits if it chose. So prior to 2011 our benefits were “defined” by the terms of the Plan, and after the weakening of the language they became merely targets. Watch for our next message to learn more about all three concerns, and how to have your say. Or go to our website, unifaith.ca.

 


 


  


©2017 Unifaith Community Chapter | 354476 Mill Line Ingersoll, ON N5C 3J5

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Unifaith supports all ministers and faith workers in employment-related matters, regardless of the individual's theological views.

The Unifor Unifaith Community Chapter is the national organization representing United Church of Canada ministers and other faith workers, as well as their families.  Serving in solidarity, Unifaith members encourage, inspire and protect one another. Unifaith celebrates the profound heritage of The United Church in solidarity with the Union Movement in Canada and around the world.

Letter 2. Seeking Action

 Our UCC Pension part 2

— Getting action on Our UCC pension

  

Dear UCC Pension Plan member,

Thank you for taking time to read our letter last week. We wanted to invite a wider discussion about concerns we have been hearing from United Church Pension Plan members about the Plan:

- a weakening of the terms of the Plan,

- a decade of no increases in pension payments to retirees and their survivors

- and unsatisfactory accountability to us, the Plan members.

The Church’s response so far

Knowing the General Council is the administrator of the Pension Plan, and wishing to share our concerns, last summer Unifaith sought a meeting with Nora Sanders, General Secretary, to discuss it. The response to our letter did not acknowledge our request for a meeting, but assured us that all is well with the Plan and no reduction in benefits was anticipated. But we know from our members that all is not well with the Plan.

Plan members are counting on their United Church pension to look after them in their retirement, or upon the death of a spouse who was a member. The new language of the Plan, allowing a decrease in some circumstances, is alarming. The failure by the Church to supplement the Plan to allow for increases to keep up, at least in part, with the cost of living is disappointing.

Two ways to act for change

1. When you respond to the pension survey (www. surveymonkey.com/r/ UCCpensionplan) or participate in a focus group, ask for an explanation of these concerns. (Note: You may do the Pension Board survey again, should you have sent in a response already, just note that in your final comment second time around.)

 

1.When you respond to the pension survey (www. surveymonkey.com/r/ UCCpensionplan) or participate in a focus group, ask for an explanation of these concerns. (Note: You may do the Pension Board survey again, should you have sent in a response already, just note that in your final comment second time around.)

 

 


  

click picture to find the survey


Here are questions from the survey, with notes from Unifaith based on our research:

Question 4. The Pension Board provides me with enough information to understand the Pension Plan and my rights under it.

Unifaith learned that the General Council Executive (GCE) and the Pension Board softened the language of the covenant (“The Plan”) a few years ago to allow for a discretionary reduction in retirement pensions. None of our members recall seeing a notice of this change. Perhaps the Board is not providing us with enough information to understand the Plan, or the changes it is undergoing.

Question 6. The Pension Board does a good job communicating regularly about my pension.

Unifaith is concerned that when the Board communicates about our pensions it leaves out information, such as its change to the pension covenant permitting discretionary reductions to pension entitlements, the declining buying power for retirees, and changes being made such as to the language of the covenant.

Question 9. I know where to find information about the governance of the Pension Plan.

Unifaith has worked the past few years to learn about Plan governance decisions, and not always been successful. The minutes of General Council Executive reports by the Pension Board, and direction from the Executive to the Board are often bare bones, or minus all content. Communications from General Council Office regarding pension law sometimes take the most severe interpretation of a law to explain why the Church’s hands are tied.

Question 10. The Pension Board does a good job of managing the Pension Plan.

Unifaith agrees that the Board is doing a good job, given its current Mandate. Members of the Plan might wonder why there has not been more creativity finding ways to supplement the Fund in a depressed stock market environment.

Question 11. I believe the Pension Board operates with Plan members’ best interests in mind.

Unifaith does believe this. Board members are volunteers who give their time and expertise willingly. We thank them for their service. Unifaith believes the Board might be even better able to operate the Plan in members’ interests if members had more opportunity for input.

Question 14. Comments.

I signed the Pension Plan covenant upon my ordination believing it would provide the retirement benefit promised. Now I’ve learned that may not be the case. Perhaps the Board should be asking some of these questions about their management of the Pension Plan:

- Are you confident you will be able to retire comfortably with just the UC pension and CPP/OAS?

- As a retiree are you content with no pension increases?

- Did you know that the Board can decrease your pension in some circumstances?

- Are you happy with the risk assumed on the adoption of the current asset mix (roughly 60% stocks (higher risk), 40% income-producing securities (lower risk) at present)?

 

 

 


 

Remember: you can redo the survey, if you wish to add comments based on Unifaith’s research and member concerns. If you do, please be fair and note that in your comment section. It may take more than a survey, though, to get the changes we want, so watch for our next letter with its second suggestion to act for change. We encourage conversation, so share this letter with plan members you know, and let us know how you are feeling with a note to secretary@unifaith.ca.

Rev. Robin Wardlaw, President

Rev. Dr. Chris Levan, Vice President

 


 


  


©2017 Unifaith Community Chapter | 354476 Mill Line Ingersoll, ON N5C 3J5

Pension Documents

Foresight issue 7 (2008) to issue 30 (2015)

Connex issue 24 (2010) to issue 37 (2013)