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Greenwood ill-informed, off the mark on city staff salaries, pensions

Bill Greenwood’s letter to the editor (City staff too costly, pension payout too rich, Jan. 17, 2014) contains grossly inaccurate information about the wages and pensions of city staff.

Contrary to Mr. Greenwood’s assertions, city staff cannot expect a retirement income of over $50,000.

The average annual benefit for a member of the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) is a very modest $15,000. Even with Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security payments, municipal workers live dangerously close to the poverty line when they retire after a lifetime of service.

It should be noted that the LAPP has many participants, not just the City of Red Deer, and therefore the $50-million pension plan liability that Mr. Greenwood referred to does not belong just to the City of Red Deer. The liability belongs jointly to all the participants of LAPP.

While the city does own a part of the pension liability, there is a plan in place to largely pay the LAPP liability off by the year 2022. At that time, payments by the taxpayers into the pension plan will be reduced significantly.

There is no crisis in the pension plan; as the parties have worked out a way to pay the liability off slowly, over time, in a reasonable and responsible manner.

All employees under the LAPP are currently doing their part by personally contributing extra to the plan to help with the liability of the plan.

Mr. Greenwood’s comments that city staff earn an average of $85,000 are highly misleading.

Speaking for our members, our municipal employees earn considerably less than that.

Our terms and conditions of employment are published in a contract available online and a quick glance at it will tell any reasonable person that most Red Deer employees earn wages pretty close to average (I’ll concede it’s a little higher than average — there is an advantage to having a union, after all!).

Rather than take Mr. Greenwood’s approach of bringing all employees down to the lowest wage levels in our community, I would point to the advantages of a well-paid workforce. We invest our salaries and our pension benefits in local businesses, promoting our economy.

Well-treated employees stay with the organization longer, developing expertise, and reducing the need for recruitment and training of new workers.

Red Deer employees take pride in our work, in our city and the community we are building.

We are here for the long haul, and a decent salary and a dignified retirement are not too much to ask in return.

Brian Stevens

President

CUPE Local 417

Red Deer

 

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