Winnipeg police union opposes changes to pension plan; city says would save millions

The union representing Winnipeg police officers is sounding the alarm over proposed changes to the service’s pension plan — changes the city says could save millions.

The changes would see overtime removed from pensionable earnings and officer’s contributions jump from eight per cent to 11.5 per cent. Meanwhile the city’s contributions to the plan would fall from 18.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Officers retiring before the age of 55 or 60 would also receive a reduced pension if they serve less than 20 years and a bridge benefit between retirement and age 65 would be eliminated, under the proposed changes.

If approved by council, the changes would go into effect starting Jan. 1.

None of that sits well with Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) Vice President George Van Mackelbergh.

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“Our plan is strictly for sworn officers in the city, it’s solvent, there’s an agreement in place in how it’s governed and the bylaws around it,” he told 680 CJOB.

“We find it very strange that Mayor Bowman … (says) he could arbitrarily change it — we disagree.”

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In a release the city said the changes would save roughly $12 million a year, and argued the move would bring the WPS pension plan more inline with that of forces in other Canadian cities.

“The Winnipeg Police Pension Plan is one of the most expensive police pension plans in Canada, requiring significant financial support from the City,” reads the release.

“The City is currently paying approximately 2.3 times more into the pension plan than employees.”

The city also said the money saved by removing overtime from pensionable earnings — an estimated $1.5 million a year — would be added back into the service’s annual budget.

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That’s cold comfort for Van Mackelbergh.

“I don’t know why that would come off the back of the workers,” he said when asked if having extra resources could be a workable compromise for the union.

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“The city chooses to not hire or staff appropriately or provide a budget that would appropriately protect citizens … this is the byproduct.

“You can’t have it both ways.”

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An administrative report on the changes said the city has been meeting with WPA officials since October 2016 to discuss changes to the plan without resolution.

None of the changes can be made without approval from council.

The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the mayor’s executive policy committee Nov. 12.

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