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Pension plan update

Employee groups being engaged to work on joint sponsorship

Campus and Community

By Melissa Watton

Memorial’s Board of Regents has provided the university’s administration with direction to engage employee groups and begin the process of working toward agreement on the joint sponsorship of the Memorial University Pension Plan.

Discussions are beginning this month and will continue into spring 2018.

This direction comes following information and non-binding recommendations provided to the board by Memorial’s pensions committee and its ad-hoc subcommittee.

Subcommittee mandate

The subcommittee was formed in 2016 in response to pension funding challenges and at the request of government for Memorial to embark upon a pension sustainability review.

It was given a mandate to review the funding and structure of the plan and tasked with making recommendations regarding a joint sponsorship model that would involve both the university and its employees (similar reviews and transitions to jointly sponsored models have already taken place in other public sector pension plans in the province).

The review and resulting discussion focused on high-level governance issues as well as more detail-oriented considerations relative to funding and how joint sponsorship agreements are set up. Throughout the course of its review, the subcommittee was mindful of the plan’s existing unfunded liability and modelled a variety of funding assumptions with the pension plan’s actuary, Eckler Limited.

Dr. Robert Sweeny, former professor, Department of History, and recent retiree was the Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association sub-committee delegate.

“One of the most important discoveries of the subcommittee was that a large portion of the plan’s present unfunded liability was the result of a move to a new made-in-Canada set of mortality tables that recognize we are living longer and a reduction in our projected average annual rate of return on investments,” he said.

Recommendations

According to Glen Roberts, manager, benefits and pensions, Human Resources, the subcommittee was diligent in making recommendations.

“The subcommittee made a number of recommendations relative to joint sponsorship and the related guiding principles. In so doing, it reaffirmed the principles of the protection of already accrued benefits, the maintenance of a defined benefit pension plan, and the preservation of current retiree pensions. These are all points that will be important to plan members.”

Memorial’s pension plan has been available to eligible employees since 1950. Throughout its history, the plan has successfully responded to a variety of financial challenges and changes in the pension landscape.


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