by Chris White
Retiree representative, Unifor Local 222 executive board
For 8 months Unifor President Jerry Dias has refused to act to stop the unnecessary exploitation of GM retirees’ health care trust by retired Unifor staffers.
In December of 2016 the Retired Workers Chapter and the GM Unit of Unifor Local 222 Oshawa moved a motion requesting that Dias replace the 5 retired staff members serving as trustees to the Health Care Trust (GM asr trust) with current staff. This has also been supported by the Unifor Local 199 Retired Workers Chapter, St. Catharines.
Why is it important to replace them? Once these staff members retired they started receiving exorbitant retainers and meeting fees from the Trust. These payments are currently $27,635 yearly plus $774 per meeting for each trustee. Assuming 4 meetings a year, this amounts to $30,731 annually, more than many of our members receive for their pension after a lifetime working in the plant. To add further insult, these payments are fully indexed to inflation, while our pensions have been frozen for 10 years.
The Health Care Trust was negotiated as part of the 2009 contract, and is supposed to provide health care benefits for GM and Fiat Chrysler retirees. When the trust was set up the trustees appointed by the union were not entitled to receive these payments because they were employees of the National Union. However, once they retired they then started to receive these payments from the Trust fund while also receiving extremely generous pensions and benefits from the National Union.
GM retirees have already taken a hit because the GM Health Care Trust was underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars when it was set up. As a result, our benefits have been cut by about 20% and our monthly contributions have been increasing by more than twice the rate of inflation. Retirees from Fiat Chrysler and Ford have not had their health care benefits cut. To have retired staff getting exorbitant retainers from our depleted funds is adding insult to injury.
Jerry Dias has never even bothered to respond personally to either the GM Unit or the Retired Workers Chapter of Local 222. Instead he has had his underlings reply with nothing more than a load of meaningless verbiage. They claimed that the retired trustees would be replaced in a timely manner – yet Sym Gill, who retired from his union position as Director of Pensions and Benefits in 2011, is still collecting his $30,000+ a year – 6 years later! Only one of the retired staff trustees has been replaced.
Local 222 has submitted a resolution to the Unifor Canadian Council Meeting being held August 18-20, 2017, demanding Dias act in accordance with the wishes of the active and retired members. He needs to be constantly reminded the monies in the trust do not belong to the Union; they belong to current and future GM retirees. I ask all delegates to stand with the retirees and support this resolution.
This article was originally published on the Unifor Solidarity Network website.