Thousands of hardworking Albertans can rest a little easier knowing they now have more say in the management of their public sector pension plans.

The two major plans many members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees belong to, the Public Sector Pension Plan and the Local Authorities Pension Plan, are officially under joint employer-employee governance after the legislation passed by the NDP government last year came into effect on March 1.

“Our members can finally have faith that their pension plans will no longer be used as a political football by elected officials who are not always guided by the best interests of plan members,” said AUPE vice president Mike Dempsey, who is a Sponsor Board member for both public sector plans.

“Before today, Alberta had been the only province in the country without joint-governance for its public sector pension plans. Our union has been fighting tooth and nail for this type of ownership over pensions – after all, these plans are the retirement savings for our members. They should have a say in how they are managed.”

AUPE members will recall that just five years ago, union members went out on the street en masse to protest Alison Redford government’s plan to gut public sector pensions, claiming they were a liability for the public. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, though. Today, both plans are funded and financially healthy, and expected to grow even healthier in the coming years.

“Our members rallied and protested, and packed government committee meetings to passionately defend their pensions. It was an incredible display of solidarity and strength, and it paved the way for the changes we are finally seeing today,” Dempsey said.

“But that determination must continue because we’re beginning to hear those familiar claims about our pensions from some politicians.”

For example, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney has stated that he wants to reform public sector pensions, wrongly claiming they have “huge unfunded liabilities.” He has also spoken in favour of defined-contribution plans, rather than the define-benefit model both plans currently use.

“Defined-benefit pension plans provide better security to our members because that means they’ll know what their benefits will be when they retire,” Dempsey said. “If we want to keep that certainty, we’ll need to continue to be vocal in our defense of these plans.”