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

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the firefighters of Montreal in the case opposing it to the City of Montreal on pension plans. However, they do not look defeated since a second cause continues its way in the legal system.

The Association des Pompiers de Montréal (APM) initiated an action because it was unable to agree with the City on “the increase in contributions payable by firefighters as a contribution to their pension plan”, which stemmed from Law 15.

The law, passed in 2014, requires participants in municipal sector pension plans to restructure them according to “a determined negotiation process”. The APM has initiated proceedings to have it invalidated, doubting its constitutionality.

It was the first of these two cases that the Supreme Court refused to hear.

“We still feel incredible disappointment,” said Thursday, to the QMI Agency, Chris Ross, president of the APM, recalling however that this appeal only related to the specific point of the contributions.

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

The case on the constitutionality of the law is still under consideration at the Quebec Court of Appeal. Mr Ross expects her to be heard in the fall or early 2023.

According to him, the increase in dues has significant financial consequences for its members. “For the average single firefighter, it makes a difference of about $250 net on pay. So a fairly significant impact on the money left over after paying the various levels of government,” he explained.

Long steps

In 2015, the MPA initiated a legal action to invalidate Law 15, adopted in December 2014, on pension plans for municipal employees.

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 constituted the loss of a benefit provided for in their collective agreement. An argument that they tried to put forward, by filing a grievance in this regard.

Since the MPA was unable to reach an agreement with the City on this 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 Superior Court also ruled in favor of the City. A decision contested by the firefighters, who appealed.

In a two-to-one decision in July 2021, however, the Court of Appeal dismissed the case.

“Since the current employee contributions payable are not a benefit or advantage, their increase cannot constitute a decrease in a benefit provided by the plan,” concluded the majority judges, who considered that the decision of the arbitrator was “reasonable”.

It is therefore this case that the Supreme Court refused to hear.

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