Pensions & Unions

Former employees of Cassiar Asbestos Corporation (and subsequent owners of the mine) often seek information about pension plans.

Union and Pension links

Pensions at closure

Union Case File Number

USWA's statement in 2005

Here are links to website of interest to this matter:

John Gwilliam was involved in the matter of the Cassiar pensions, when it was learned that Cassiar was going to shut down. John has kindly written what he remembers of the setup and payout for the pensions. John's information provides valuable insight into the matter and hopefully this will answer the pension-related questions that any of you have.

There were two pension funds at the time of closure of the Mine, and as I had worked both in the Union and on Salary I had participated in both funds. I will deal with the Union Fund first. Contrary to rumours that are still floating around, the Company did not "dip' into the pension funds to finance their operations. There are some pretty stringent Canadian Laws that prohibit this kind of action.

The Union Fund was established to provide a pension to people who had never had one before. I was part of the negotiating committee for the Union at the time and it was established as a non-contributory fund. That means that the employee did not contribute any earnings to the fund, but for every dollar earned there was a small amount contributed to the fund by the Company. It was not very much but it was a start and it was more than we had before. When the Company was faced with closure the fund was taken over by a Financial Institution for distribution and they sent letters to every person who had participated in the fund and offered options to them about what to do with the money. A person could make a choice about taking the cash or taking a pension at the normal age of retirement of 65. There was no option available for early retirement (55) due to the fact that it was a non-contributory fund. The only options for retirement were to provide for payments to a spouse in the event of the employees death. I do not have the exact records any more but I do know that those who took the cash did not get a lot, but as I mentioned, it was not a big fund. Some mention was made of $2,400.00 for twelve years.

I seem to recall that being the amount of cash that was available to me as well as I had worked for twelve years with the Union. I also recall that the other option was to take the pension at age 65 with spousal protection which came out to $141 per month. I don't know how many people did the math but I did!

141X12=1692 for possibly 20 years, total possible value $33,840.

I will not tell you which option I chose.

Now I will deal with the Salary Pension, which was different from the Union Pension in that it was a contributory pension. That means that a percentage of our monthly salary was taken off our pay each month and along with a comparable amount from the Company was contributed to our Pension Fund. The amount that we contributed was tax deductible as are all pension contributions. It was the same as an RRSP, you would eventually have to pay tax but only when you retired or started to receive pension payments. This fund had the option of early retirement in it. The early retirement option was based on combined contributory years and age that totaled 90. IE if a person was 60 years old and had contributed for 30 years they could retire with a full pension. The earliest retirement age was 55. So if a person was 55 and had contributed for 35 years they could retire. There was no option to retire before age 55.

I will give some background before I discuss the legal problem that arose with this pension. When the Mine was faced with closure, the salaried employees, who did not have any employment protection (Union) decided to form a group which was called the Cassiar Staff Employees Group, or CSEG. All those who joined contributed an amount of money in order to give the group a capital fund to draw on if required, I think it was $100 each. This fund was established with the purpose of protecting our legal rights in the event that the Company was taken over by a company that shall remain nameless here but whose initials were appropriately BS. I might add at this point that some people who bought shares in BS were able to realize a tidy profit at a later date, but that has nothing to do with the subject at hand Anyway the Group was formed and the capital fund established in order to provide a united group to deal with the new owners of the Company, whoever they may be. As we are all aware, that did not occur and we were all faced with the prospect of looking for new jobs. Some of the people left the Group and were paid back the money they had contributed. Those that remained in the Group were those who were still in the pension plan. We decided to keep the Group in place until all legal wrangling regarding closure was over and it is a good thing we did because a legal problem arose which we had to address.

When Arthur Anderson, the appointed receiver, looked at the assets of the Company they decided that the amount of Capital in the Pension Fund was greater than required to pay out all the pensions. They based this on the fact that some of the people in the fund were under the age of 55 and because the mine was closing, these people would never be able to achieve the previously mentioned required combined age and contributory service of 90.

They therefore said that those people should not receive any pension until they were 65. They argued that the pension was over-funded by the mount that would have been paid out to those employees from age 55 to 65 and that amount should fall into general revenue and be distributed to the creditors. We who would have been adversely affected (ripped off) by this decision were able to successfully fight this in court thanks to the foresight we had to form the Group when we did. It was established that even though our contributions ceased we were still participating in the Pension and therefore could receive a pension at age 55 rather than 65. We kept the group intact until the youngest person in the group reached the age of 55 and then disbanded the group and disbursed the remaining capital to various charities.

I hope this has shed some light on the pension situation and has not been too long and boring. The pension funds are now administered by Industrial Alliance Insurance Company in Montreal and I think that anyone who thinks they may be eligible for a pension should contact them to find out. However if you took the cash, that is all you get. One further note. I think there may have been a low limit on the Union Pension. IE if you had only participated for like 2 or 3 years you only had the option of taking the cash. I am not sure if this is the case.

You have my permission to publish this in your newsletter if you like or to send it to any Cassiarites who ask. I take no responsibility for any errors or omission as this writing is taken solely from my memory, which is failing with age.

John Gwilliam

At the end of 2003 someone seeking information regarding his pension contacted the United Steelworkers of America at this address:

United Steelworkers of America,
District 3 Western Provinces and Territories
601 - 686 West Broadway,
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1G1

The address was valid on April 2, 2005 and their phone number is (604) 873-3905.

The person contacted was Steven Hunt, then Assistant to the Director. The union's case file # for ex-Cassiarites is 1970-140-6536.

In 2005 someone inquired with the USWA and received this response from them. Should more be received and forwarded it will be added here.

Unfortunately the pension agreements that were negotiated during the years, up to and including into the early 1990's all required a minimum of 10 years vesting. In other words, you had to have worked for the Company for a minimum of 10 years in order to qualify for any pension. However, I will look into the Cassiar agreement further though just to ensure that this was the case and will advise you as soon as I have an answer.


This page was last edited Monday, February 02, 2015

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