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Bully in the Church Workshop

PROPOSALS TO THE 43RD GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA


“Supplementing Pension Benefits”

Origin: __________________________ Congregation/Presbytery/Conference

Financial Implications if known: at least 10% of the proceeds of United Church property sales kept in a restricted use fund

Staffing Implications if known: staff time to develop and administer the fund

Source of Funding if known: sales of church properties

We propose that any jurisdiction selling Church property hereafter set aside at least 10% of the proceeds from such sales to be accumulated in a restricted use fund of The United Church of Canada. The fund will be used to supplement pension benefits for both current and future members of the Plan once it is large enough and a distribution policy has been developed. The fund will remain in place as long as the Pension Plan exists.

Background

The United Church maintains a defined benefit retirement plan which requires participation and contributions by clergy and congregations. We are concerned about the well being in retirement of UCC Pension Plan members due to the static level of pensions being paid since 2009.  

There are a number of factors leading us to this concern:

 Pensioners report that their monthly pension benefit from the UCC Pension Plan after a thirty-plus year career in the United Church is typically 35% - 40% of their pre-retirement earnings (including housing allowance), making retirement precarious and tense for many Plan members.

 There has not been a pension benefit increase since 2009, and there is no pension increase planned for the near future.  Since the last increase in 2009 the Consumer Price Index in Canada has risen by approximately 15%, leaving United Church pensioners with less and less buying power.

 The Pension Plan is fully funded on a going forward, solvency, and wind-up basis as of the last actuarial valuation.  Since the number of pensioners (approximately 4,500) is greater than the number of active members (about 3,500), the Plan is largely dependent upon market conditions to improve its funded status. Two decades of low interest rates and uneven markets have revealed the vulnerability of this funding model: the Plan has not been able to protect its members from inflation.

Church properties are being sold routinely as congregations close, with proceeds being held by each Conference in trust for the United Church, generating considerable revenue across the Church.  Now is the time to set aside a portion of this money to be used to provide pension upgrades.  

As pension law currently stands, there are restrictions on adding funds to a multi-employer pension plan such as ours.  However with some creativity, other methods of supplementing retirement pensions could be developed. We imagine money accumulating in a restricted use fund until a method of augmenting pensions is developed.