As previously reported, the main part of the Pension Lawsuit trial began on September 2, 2008, and it has certainly been an interesting 3 weeks!
Our first witness Mr Ray Erb was on the stand for three days. He has as a long history with the Civil Service Superannuation Fund Liaison Committee and was able to speak knowledgeably and extensively on the committee’s role in negotiating plan improvements and determining the use of any surplus. Through this lawsuit we are seeking to have the MTS pension plan amended to give members the same level of input and involvement that we enjoyed under the Civil Service Superannuation Act (CSSA).
Mr Larry Trach, former Business Manager of TEAM was our second witness. Mr Trach corroborated Mr Harry Restall’s evidence (heard between April and June, 2008) and he reinforced our perspective on events at the time of privatization.
The Honourable Darren Praznik’s testimony on September 8 was very important to our case. Mr Praznik, former Minister for the Civil Service Superannuation Plan, former Minister of Labour, and Deputy House Leader in the government at the time of the MTS privatization, asserted that (in his view) the government viewed the surplus in the old plan as belonging to the employees and retirees, as they were almost entirely responsible for its accumulation. Review of the debate in Hansard supports Mr Praznik’s contention that it was the Government’s intent that the old and new plan should be equal in benefits in the broadest sense. He testified that governance and control over employee surplus were benefits that employees had in the CSSA and that should have been duplicated in the MTS pension plan. He also supported the member’s interpretation of an important agreement concerning the pension plan which he brokered on behalf of the government.
The first pension actuary to take the stand was Mr John Corp (retired) of Eckler Group. He was the actuary representing the Communication, Energy and Paper Workers Union (CEP) in 1996. His evidence was that the plans are not equivalent because of the treatment of surplus.
Our actuary, Mr Louis Ellement, of Ellement and Ellement, began his testimony on September 15. His in-depth understanding of the before and after pension plans will further support and bolster our position.
We expect Mr Ellement to finish testifying this week. Mr Clifford Fox, the “Independent Actuary” appointed during the privatization process, will then take the stand. He will be followed by our expert witnesses, Mr Tom Levy on September 29.
Mr Tom Paterson and Mr Warren Johnson of the Provincial Auditors office and then the former Provincial Auditor, Jon Singleton will take the stand in early October. After that, MTS begins its defence.
A calendar for the trial, showing tentative witness examination dates, is available on request from the TEAM office. Court is typically in session every weekday from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, and from 2 PM to 4:15 PM: Courtroom 128, Law Courts Building, 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg.
We will keep you updated.
TEAM-IFPTE Local 161