In our practice we speak with many Canadians who have saved and/or are saving for retirement and find that most people have the common desire to have at minimum, a rock solid core retirement income that's guaranteed to keep them in the lifestyle they prefer. I would suspect that the postal workers union and their members probably have the same goals in mind.
From the outside looking in, the main problem in this dispute appears to be that even though DB plans are often the best guaranteed retirement income solutions available for employees the financial risks of DB plans are considered too high for most of today's corporate managers to take on. So the compromise of a simple DC plan offers similar ongoing financial support for workers but eliminates the corporate capital requirements required by pension regulation and future retirement income risks of employees away from the corporation.
A few of the key differences between DB plans and some of the available guaranteed income plans such as with variable annuity plans also known as GMWB's are:
a) savers maintain access to their savings in the event they need the money.
b) plans can be portable when people change jobs.
c) some plans offer lifetime income that is based on deposits plus 4-5% during your savings years (or market value which ever is higher).
d) lifetime retirement income might not be indexed to inflation.
e) savers can choose from a wide variety of investments.
Guaranteed income for life solutions that combine some of the DC plan attributes with some of the DB plan attributes such as these are often a good compromise that suits a majority of retirement income needs.
a) peace of mind comes from having a core part of retirement income that's provided for life that's above and beyond meagre CPP and Old Age Security (OAS) payments.
b) as a passive supplemental guaranteed income above small or insufficient existing DB plans in order to guarantee anticipated lifetime income needs.
c) create as close to a DB plan equivalent with RRSP's, RRIF's and DC plans as possible so the requirement for taking on additional investment risks are reduced or eliminated in savings years and most importantly, during retirement risk zone years.
d) smooth out or eliminate the negative effects on incomes that are often caused by volatile markets or savings that would otherwise be exhausted when needed during retirement years.
It's also important to note that the various guaranteed for life income solutions currently available are implemented to suit the specific needs of groups, couples and individuals on a case by case basis.