Bell Pensioners' Group (BPG) was formed in 1995 by a group of Bell pensioners who were concerned about their RRSP savings after the collapse of The Confederation Life Insurance Company in August 1994. Following the successful negotiation of an Enhancement Agreement with Bell Canada that guaranteed appropriate financial compensation upon liquidation of Confederation Life, BPG continues to advocate on behalf of pensioners' rights.
BPG is becoming increasingly recognized as the most proactive pensioners' organization in Canada and is a founding member of the Canadian Federation of Pensioners, created in 2005, We have chapters located in Ottawa, Ontario Central and Southwestern Ontario, Montréal, Québec City, Télébec's territory and Aliant Atlantic, and are seeking to expand our membership.
WHAT IS BPG?
The Bell Pensioners' Group (BPG) is an advocacy organization representing pensioners of Bell Canada and Bell Canada affiliated companies. The BPG mandate is to safeguard the rights, benefits and privileges earned by its members during their working years, and to educate and empower through information and knowledge.
This mandate also extends to intervention in legislative and policy issues with both Federal and Provincial governments. BPG frequently submits briefs to governments and other stakeholders in the pension area, including provincial commissions on pensions, and our president has appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to present BPG's views in person.
In the world of 'The New Bell', privatization, competition, mergers, takeovers, cost cutting, emphasis on shareholder stake, partnerships, etc., there is more need than ever for a strong representation for pensioners. No one else is prepared, or able, to take up this challenge. To do this effectively, BPG needs strong pensioner membership. Unfortunately BPG does not have access to Bell's pensioner mailing list as these records are treated as confidential. As a result, the growth of our organization is through referrals and word of mouth. If you have contact with Bell pensioners, please send us their names and addresses; we would like to invite them to join.
WHAT DOES BPG DO?
Each chapter holds meetings throughout the year, usually in the spring and fall. Chapters also maintain their own websites, and issue newsletters on a regular basis. Reports on the current dialogue with Bell and other key stakeholders are an important part of our newsletters and meetings.
Here are just a few examples of the issues and activities BPG has addressed:
· In 1997, after meetings with senior management in the Bell Human Resources organization, agreement was reached to hold formal meetings on a regular basis with Bell. The BPG Board has now been meeting with Bell once or twice a year to exchange information, to discuss issues and to keep each other informed on key issues.
· In 1999, BPG made a strategic decision to endorse two of its members as pensioner candidates for the Pension Information Council (PIC). Both candidates (one each for Ontario and Quebec) were elected with wide majorities. This clearly declared to Bell the interest of BPG and its members in their vested stake in the Bell Pension Fund. In subsequent elections, BPG endorsed candidates were again elected with wide majorities. BPG works closely with the PIC reps.
· We constantly discuss with Bell ways to improve communications with its pensioners. As a result, we now have the "In Touch" pensioners newsletter and the Bell Pensioners website at www.bellprotection.hroffice.com
· We resolved the issue, with Bell, and Revenue Canada, about the 'Taxable Benefit' associated with The Pensioners' Group Life Insurance, with no Taxable Benefit, and hence no taxes payable for 1998 and all subsequent years.
· BPG in conjunction with Bell met with the Federal Departments of Finance and Human Resources Development to protest the unfairness of the proposed Federal Government's "Seniors Benefit". The proposal would have unilaterally withdrawn government benefits, with a 'year of birth' criterion, from Bell pensioners who had opted for a 'blended' pension, with a higher Bell component to age 65, dropping down with the advent of the previously promised government pension. Many other seniors' organizations also commented on and criticized the "Seniors Benefit" proposal, which was subsequently withdrawn.
· In the summer of 2001, BPG wrote to the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Health to protest comments by the Minister, suggesting that health benefits in the future may be related to income. Bell has stated that benefits, withdrawn by Government, will not be picked up by Bell in the future.
· Over the past few years, BPG has established a working relationship with the key stakeholders in the federal government, i.e. Finance Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and Human Resources and Social Development (HRSDC).
· In September 2006 , BPG submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommending improvements to the security of private pension plans through legislative reform. A few weeks later, the president of BPG was invited to appear before the Committee to express the BPG perspective in person.
Since then, BPG has presented its views on pension reform to a number of provincial Commissions such as the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions (OECP), the Alberta / British Columbia Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards and the Nova Scotia Pension Review Panel.
BPG has also been very active with organizations from the private sector, namely the C.D. Howe Institute and the Conference Board in Canada
You can see from the examples above that we are active in lobbying to protect the rights and benefits that we earned during our careers.
We cannot do it alone. We must have the backing of all pensioners.
There is strength in numbers: We want and need your support!