I, and many public service retirees, are watching the large writing on the political wall and the very scratchy tone of its movement is deafening. Especially as we retirees must be very vigilant when our provincial government makes this pronouncement.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy assured public sector retirees on Sept. 19 that their pensions “would not be affected by a review of unfunded pensions, but gave very little assurance to current employees.”
Former premier Danny Williams tried to do something about the unfunded liabilitywhen he put $2.5 billion federal dollars into the public pension plan a few years ago. That was very positive.
Yet, in 2013, we are still in trouble with a current need for $5 billion more to keep our pension plans viable. Why has this present government made little or no effort to put a financial plan in place to address the problem? Why have the Liberals and NDP seemed to have forgotten that little matter in house debate? Oh, I believe I know that answer — no one wrote it on a piece of paper for them to clumsily read out.
So here we are in the fall of 2013, all focused on a mega Muskrat Falls hydro project about to cost us a fortune and a dilapidated Holyrood plant costing a bloody fortune for repairs and waste. Do our people realize how inept and incompetent that behemoth squatting on the Atlantic near Seal Cove really is, as it slurps up heavy bunker oil day after day? I think not.
No one really cared about public pensions in the past — except Premier Williams — and absolutely no one gives a damn now as they follow Smallwood's pension template of covert neglect. The general public has long been cynical about MHA's feathering their own nests at public expense, with lavish MHA pension plans and other costly perks, and rightly so. So can we retirees really believe this voiced intention — that “public sector retirees pensions would not be affected by a review of unfunded pensions.”
We teachers and others have worked long and hard getting qualified and spent many dollars acquiring degrees, so that we might move our education system beyond the basic structure of reading, writing and arithmetic. We gave countless unpaid hours running extracurricular activities and as a group, we built our communities by full participation in the towns in which we lived.
Contrast that dedication with some upstart popular snake oil politicians and suckling public servants by political appointment — whose academic resumes are slim, missing or misleading. I love the obligatory statement for such poorly-educated ones whose bio always opens with “Attended Memorial University.” That's subterfuge code for “flunked out the first year.” The most public service many MHA's have performed is that of eating free dinners at public events while engineering a non-invitation for fellow MHA's of a different political stripe. Our Lions Clubs have a cutting phrase for such shirkers; they call them “fork and knife members.”
And what is this government's response to this pension crisis?
“A report by Moody's released on Thursday warned the provincial government that if pension debt continues to pile up, the province risks harming its credit rating.”
So the next step as opposed to real action? Dunderdale said the government will now start the process of changing pensions by collaborating with the unions. Collaborating? In the best of negotiations, cooperating is a healthy description, but the use of the word “collaborating” is very misleading and completely false. Why? Because, simply put, two bodies can ever be said “to collaborate” when one body — the provincial government — has all the power and we, the public service retirees, are like David minus his slingshot. On second thought, we don't need slingshots. Our greatest need is a set of balls — a very large strong set for every public service retiree — both male and female.