United for Mining Justice Network Backgrounder for Pension Plan members regarding the Pension Plan Governance Survey, due no later than Nov. 3rd
Friends, we in the United for Mining Justice Network are concerned that two very significant governance issues are not raised in the Pension Plan Governance Survey. We ask you to consider these issues and express your view regarding these concerns in the Comment Box at the end of the survey. If you have already sent in the survey, it is not too late to make comments. You may do the Pension Board survey again, but it is important that you note that in your final comment second time around. We also encourage you to volunteer for the focus group conversations.
In order to understand our concerns, you may wish to see the present Pension Board governance model. www.united-church.ca/leadership/church-administration/pension
Please note that our colleagues at UNIFAITH are also expressing serious concerns about the Pension Plan. www.unifaith.ca/ourpension.html
A. Concern about representation of Pension Plan members on the Pension Board In research by Ernie Epp, a member of the United for Mining Justice Network Coordinating Committee and a past Chair of the Lakehead University Pension Board, , he found that the Ontario Pension Benefits Act requires the participation of representatives of “members of the pension plan " - Section 8 (1) (b) (ii) - and the further requirement of “a pension committee composed of representatives of members of the pension plan." The United Church Pension Board has no members elected by Pension Plan members to represent them, nor is there a committee composed of representatives of Pension Plan members. Pension Board appointments are approved by the General Council Executive with no provision for participation by Pension Plan members in selecting or electing Board members. We in the United for Mining Justice Network are concerned about this because, since the Pension Plan has no elected representatives nor a pension committee comprised of members, it is very difficult for Pension Plan members to have their concerns heard and responded to, regarding ethical investment, guidelines/criteria for entering into and leaving management engagement contracts with SHARE or any other organization, contradictions between United Church social and ethical policies and Pension Board investment decisions, new ethical interpretations of fiduciary duty, etc.
Possible action In the Comment box at the end of the survey, please consider requesting the Pension Board Governance Review to clarify whether the Pension Board is in compliance with the Ontario Pension Benefits Act regarding the requirement that there be representatives of Pension Plan members on the Board and the requirement that there be a pension committee composed of representatives of the pension plan, as required by the Ontario Pension Benefits Act. Or you may simply wish to indicate that you want to see representatives elected by Pension Plan members and/or a pension committee composed of representatives of the Pension Plan.
B. Concern about the relationship of the Pension Board to the General Council Executive (GCE), as the Pension Plan Administrator regarding United Church social and ethical policies. Should there be changes that enable the GCE as the Pension Plan to direct the Pension Board to act in congruence with United Church policies when the United Church has expressed its will? In 2003 the General Council Executive, as Administrator of the Pension Plan, delegated many of its responsibilities to the Pension Board to ensure a more effective functioning of the Pension Board. However, was it the intention then, or more importantly, should it be the situation today that the Pension Board can choose not to respond to the will of the United Church or refuse the direction of the United Church?
Example: General Council 42 passed a proposal expressing the will of the church to divest from Goldcorp. However the Pension Board refused to divest. Further the church has issued a statement supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Free, Prior and Informed Consent, yet the Pension Board still refuses to divest, even though Goldcorp has shown no intention to ensure that the exploration, development and expansion of mining projects be undertaken only with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples.
Possible action In the Comment box at the end of the survey, please consider expressing concern about the inability of the GCE, as the Pension Plan Administrator, to give direction to the Pension Board when the United Church has expressed its will and/or the Pension Board is making decisions that contradict the ethical policies ot the United Church.