On paper, pensions offered by Toyota Canada and Unifor autoworkers are pretty much the same.But TMMC has shown its pension promise is not worth the paper it’s written on, say workers at Toyota.

Both pensions promise similar benefits on retirement, but only the Unifor pension is locked in and cannot be changed without the agreement of the workers.

“Since we don’t have a collective agreement, our plan can be changed at any time,” said one seven-year Toyota team member. Both plans offer workers earning a defined benefit plan about $3,600 a month on retirement, and new hires in defined contribution plans also have similar amounts paid into the plans by workers and the employer.

The good news ends there, said Unifor economist Jim Stanford. “It is true the Toyota pension for long service workers is a good plan, it is comparable to ours but as long as workers are not in a union, they are vulnerable to having it pulled away,” said Stanford.

One of the first things Unifor does during the negotiation process is to write the pension plan into the new workplace agreement. This means that companies cannot simply make changes without the say of its employees.

Toyota last week did just that, announcing all new hires will get a defined contribution plan, not the current defined benefit plan.

New Unifor hires at Cami Automotive in Ingersoll will also get a defined contribution plan. That was bargained by the workers, who got something for moving from the defined benefit plan – such as an end to temporary workers which was a longtime goal, said Stanford.                                                        

Unifor offers retirees “lifelong protection” of their income, he added. “We are all worried they will shut it off and move us all to a (defined contribution) plan, they could shut down our defined benefit plan any time they want. We are afraid it will happen,” said the worker. “No one wants their pension tampered with.”

Facts:

Toyota Retirement Income Plan: The fine print

– Section 16.01, power to amend the act, states:

The Company reserves the right to amend or discontinue the Plan, either in whole or in part, at any time or times.”

That includes “the right to merge the Plan with another pension plan or plans, to divide the Plan, to transfer assets from the Pension Fund to the pension fund of another registered pension plan.”

– Section 15.01, Administrator, outlines how workers have no say over how much they will get:

“The Company shall have all powers necessary to administer the Plan including the power to . . . determine the amount of benefits payable to any person under the terns of the Plan.”

– Section 12.04 Use of Surplus:

The Company may, in its discretion . . . utilize such excess assets for any other purpose as the Company may direct.”