A setback in the Supreme Court for Firefighters, but not the end of the fight

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the Montreal firefighters’ case in which they defied the city of Montreal over pension plans. They don’t look defeated, however, as a second cause continues to make its way through the legal system.

The Association des Pompiers de Montréal (APM) filed a lawsuit because it could not agree with the city on “the increase in the contributions payable by firefighters to contribute to their retirement plan” that resulted from Law 15.

Passed in 2014, the law requires participants in municipal-sector pension plans to reorganize them following “a specified negotiation process.” The APM has initiated an annulment procedure because it doubts its constitutionality.

It was the first of those two cases that the Supreme Court declined to hear.

“We are still incredibly disappointed,” Chris Ross, President of the APM, told the QMI agency on Thursday, but recalled that this appeal was only on the specific point of the posts.

“It is not the fundamental decision whether the law is constitutional. It’s a postponed game. We lost a battle, but we didn’t lose the war,” he said.

The law’s constitutionality case is pending before the Quebec Court of Appeals. Mr Ross expects her hearing in the fall or early 2023.

According to him, the contribution increase has significant financial consequences for the members. “For the average individual firefighter, it makes a net difference of about $250 in pay. So quite a significant impact on the money that is left after paying the different levels of government,” he explained.

long steps

In 2015, the MPA initiated a lawsuit to invalidate Law 15, passed in December 2014, on Municipal Employee Retirement Plans.

Section 7 of the law doubled to 50% the proportion of employee contributions that firefighters had to pay to fund their pension plan.

For the firefighters, this meant the loss of a collectively agreed benefit. An argument they tried to make by filing a complaint in relation to this.

Because the MPA was unable to reach an agreement with the city on the matter, the case was heard by an arbitrator, who ruled in favor of the Montreal administration.

The firefighters therefore turned to the courts. In July 2019, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the city. A decision contested by firefighters, who appealed.

However, in a two-for-one decision in July 2021, the appeals court dismissed the lawsuit.

“Because employee contributions currently payable do not constitute a benefit or benefit, their increase cannot constitute a reduction in any benefit provided by the plan,” the majority judges concluded, finding the arbitrator’s decision “reasonable.”

Therefore, the Supreme Court declined to hear this case.

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