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Canada ‘Upset’ Over Treatment Of Pork Plant Workers

Member of Parliament says former employees at a pork plant in Canada have learned that their pensions are only worth 52 percent of what they were told they would be receiving.

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI, Canada (CP) -- Charlottetown's Member of Parliament Shawn Murphy is upset with the treatment of former employees at the province's NOFG pork plant.

The workers lost their jobs when the plant went into receivership March 28.

Murphy said Tuesday the former employees have learned that their pensions are only worth 52 percent of what they were told they would be receiving.

"This is a national scandal and no one seems to be paying any attention," he said.

The employees were members of a multi-employer plan administered by representatives of the employers and the United Food and Commercial Workers. The plan was regulated by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

"As far as I am concerned, the regulator knew, or ought to have known by 2002 at the latest, that this plan was in serious financial difficulty, yet took no real action to protect the workers," Murphy said.

Complicating the matter, the MP said, is the fact Prince Edward Island doesn't have pension legislation so there is little, if any, protection for the workers in the province.

A number of the plan administrators have been charged under the Ontario Pension Benefits Act. In addition, there was in 2006 a class-action lawsuit filed in Ontario, but Murphy indicated that will take years to wind itself through the courts.

"It is my position that the Ontario regulator, the administrators and the union, have all failed these workers. The whole system that is there to protect the public has just collapsed."

Murphy said he has written to both the federal and provincial ministers of labor about this situation.

He said he's also surprised at the position being taken by the leadership of the UFCW.

"Here is a union that in cases has represented some employees for 40 years, appointed 50 per cent of the administrators of the plan, and are now just shrugging their shoulders," he said.

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