Budget pledge on mandatory retirement carries little meaning: advocacy group

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, the Edmonton Journal and Canada.com on March 23rd, 2011. To go to the Ottawa Citizen website please click here

OTTAWA — The Canadian Association of Retired Persons says it is underwhelmed by a promise in the federal budget to scrap mandatory retirement for federally regulated workers.

CARP has been pushing the government to speed along a private member’s bill that would prohibit 12,000 federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age for their 840,000 employees. But the bill will die if, as expected, a Liberal non-confidence motion triggers an election later this week.

This week’s budget pledged to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to prohibit federally regulated employers from setting a mandatory retirement age unless there is a bona fide occupational requirement.

The sector is the last in Canada that still has broad legislative authority for mandatory retirement.

Susan Eng, CARP’s vice-president of advocacy, said the federal government had ample opportunity to make the change during its current mandate, either by backing the private member’s bill or by introducing its own legislation.

“We obviously think it’s valuable that they put it in the budget, but it carries very little meaning when there were so many actions they could have taken before this to simply get it done,” she said. “We thank them for the fine words, but action is better.”

Liberal MP Raymonde Folco, whose private member’s bill was approved by committee and sent to the House of Commons for third reading earlier this month, called the budget promise a partial victory.

But the exception for bona fide occupational requirements means some workers, including Air Canada pilots who want to keep flying past their 60th birthdays, will still have to challenge mandatory retirement policies in court.

“That ‘bona fide’ clause is going to have to be fought inch by inch by every single employee,” Folco said.

Even so, Folco said the principle that automatic mandatory retirement is unfair “seems to be acceptable now. If it’s not picked up in the next budget, some other member of Parliament or myself could pick it up at a later time.”

© The Ottawa Citizen

Keywords: budget, mandatory retirement