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June 02, 2021

Retirees win back lost pension benefits

Retiree health benefits are a dying breed. Less than 30% of Canadian companies now offer them to retired employees.

And if you do still have coverage, get ready to pay more: Employers are shifting more costs onto retirees, starting benefits at a much later age, or requiring longer tenure to qualify.

But retirees are fighting back.

An Ontario man has just launched a class-action lawsuit against GM Canada on behalf of himself and 3,500 other retired white-collar employees for rolling back their benefits as part of the company’s recent cost cutting.

Among other things, GM Canada eliminated semi-private hospital coverage, slashed the annual maximum coverage for dental and orthodontic benefits, increased the amount members would have to pay for prescription drugs and eliminated life insurance coverage.

"We can't go back and demand more money for the work we did over the course of our careers at GM. It isn't fair for GM to come along after the fact and take away the benefits that we have already earned,” says lead plaintiff Joseph O'Neill.

He’ll be happy to hear that a small group of elderly Ohio retirees have won similar concessions, albeit only temporarily, against Victoria-based Black Press, a growing media enterprise with more than 150 publications across Canada and the U.S.

In an attempt to control costs, Black attempted to slash retiree medical expenses when it bought the Akron Beacon Journal a few years ago. But the pensioners fought back.

Last month, an Ohio judge agreed with them and ordered the paper to restore the benefits. The order is only temporary, however, pending a trial that could take months to resolve.

Have you, or perhaps your parents, had key retirement benefits taken away? How are you fighting back?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...