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Canada

Non-profit workers offered chance to join Ontario government pension plan

As many as one million Ontarians who work for registered charities and non-profit organizations will be eligible to join the provincial government pension plan under an agreement being announced Monday.

The Ontario Nonprofit Network, which advocates on behalf of the province’s 58,000 charities and non-profits, is recommending OPTrust as the sector’s first defined-benefit pension provider.

Policy analyst Teshini Harrison, left, and executive director Cathy Taylor of the Ontario Nonprofit Network said the new OPTrust Select plan will provide security for the next generation of non-profit workers in the province.
Policy analyst Teshini Harrison, left, and executive director Cathy Taylor of the Ontario Nonprofit Network said the new OPTrust Select plan will provide security for the next generation of non-profit workers in the province.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

The new OPTrust Select plan will be available to every registered charity and non-profit in Ontario, whether it has one employee or hundreds, said the network’s executive director, Cathy Taylor.

Everything from non-profit arts and culture organizations, daycares, sports and recreation facilities to health and social service providers will be invited to participate.

“Hardly anyone in the sector has benefits or pensions, and our research has found this has become a significant recruitment and retention issue,” she said. “So this is a really exciting development that will help to create decent work and encourage the next generation of workers to build careers in the sector.”

OPTrust is “thrilled … to be helping those who do good, do well in retirement,” said Hugh O’Reilly, president and CEO of the organization that manages the pension for Ontario’s unionized and management employees.

“People in non-profit organizations work tirelessly to support and strengthen communities, and they deserve to know their retirement is secure,” he said in a statement.

Although the network worked with OPTrust as it developed the pension, it won’t play any formal role in running the plan.

Taylor said the network is not recommending a retirement income plan for non-profit workers launched last spring because the money isn’t locked in and benefits aren’t determined in advance, as they are with a defined-benefit pension.

“But one size doesn’t fit all. The sector is very diverse — there are self-employed artists working for non-profits and charities and a whole bunch of small organizations and individuals for whom that plan might be the best route,” she said.

“But for most workers, a defined pension is the gold standard. And we’re happy to be recommending one that we think is affordable for both employers and employees.”

Under the plan, employees will contribute 3 per cent of their salary — about the price of a daily cup of coffee for most in the sector — and employers will match it.

The pension is portable, so workers who change jobs to another Ontario non-profit will be able to bring their pension with them. And both full- and part-time employees are eligible, Taylor added.

Ontario charities and non-profits employ an estimated 14 per cent of the province’s workforce, Taylor noted. And those who adopt the pension will demonstrate their leadership in the decent work movement, she added.

Taylor, 49, who has worked for various non-profit organizations and charitable foundations over the past 25 years, said she wishes this pension had been available when she was starting her career.

“I personally know the value of a pension because I never had one. So I’m very interested in making sure the next generation of workers has that option,” she said.

“And we certainly aim to be one of the early adopters,” Taylor said of the network, which has 10 employees.

Teshini Harrison, 27, a policy analyst with the network, said being able to belong to a workplace pension has made her parents more supportive of her career choice.

“For them it’s about me setting myself up for the future in a career that is sound,” said Harrison, who has a master’s degree in international affairs and joined the network six months ago.

“In the long run, I think it’s going to benefit a lot of younger people coming in who want to stay in the sector and want to do this type of work,” she said. “And it’s important for a sector that believes in decent work that we walk the talk.”

Charities and non-profits can learn more about the pension on the network’s website and at the sector’s annual meeting, on Oct. 10-11, when OPTrust Select representatives will be available to answer questions and help organizations sign up.

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