27 June 2006
CBC failed to properly distribute
pension plan surplus, arbitrator rules
Media Guild | TNG Canada
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation violated collective
agreements when it distributed only a portion of a
pension plan surplus earmarked for employees and retirees,
an arbitrator has found.
In a 131-page ruling, arbitrator Denis Nadeau states
that the CBC erred by not following the recommendation
of the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits (CCSB),
which had made a proposal to distribute the money equitably.
The CCSB had determined that $336 million of the $1.1-billion
pension plan surplus should be available to employees
and retirees. The CBC distributed only $134 million.
All of the CBC’s unions filed grievances in
the fall of 2000; they agreed that whichever of them
was able to have the case heard quickly by a well-respected
arbitrator would “carry the ball.” It was
the Syndicat canadien de la function publique that
took the lead, with Montreal lawyer Pierre Grenier
as counsel. The Canadian Media Guild, which represents
5,500 employees at the CBC, was an interested party
in the case. The Guild’s senior staff representative,
Dan Oldfield, was a key witness.
The collective agreements oblige the CBC to implement
any CCSB recommendation that doesn't endanger the pension
plan or cause the corporation additional expense, says
Keith Maskell, a CMG staff representative who has been
involved in the case from the beginning.
While the CBC was found to have acted unilaterally,
it doesn't necessarily mean the corporation will have
to pay out $202 million to 16,000 current and former
(retired) employees. Hearings over the next few months
will determine what sort of financial and/or other
remedy will come from the ruling.
The most important element
of the arbitrator's ruling was to "remind the corporation that the CCSB exists
for a reason, that the corporation has to follow the
collective agreement, and that CBC management does
not have the right to make unilateral decisions about
any surplus in our pension plan," says Maskell.