Federal government looks to scrap benefit cushion for retiring public servants
By Jason Fekete, Postmedia News June 22, 2012
OTTAWA — As the federal government overhauls Old Age Security, it's struggling to pay for benefits owed to public sector employees — including a so-called "bridge benefit" of more than $12,000 a year each for federal workers who retire early that effectively tops up the Canada Pension Plan.
The cost of delivering the bridge benefit, which is written into federal legislation, could cost taxpayers more than $100 million annually, although the federal government has indicated it's moving to slowly eliminate it.
Federal employee perks are in the spotlight as the Conservative government eyes reforms to public sector pension benefits, looking to eliminate a deficit estimated around $24 billion and initiate what it calls a culture shift in the civil service.
At the same time, newly released government data show that absenteeism in the federal public sector is twice that found in the private sector, while Ottawa paid $1.2 billion in voluntary severance last fiscal year to more than 90,000 public servants who either remain in their jobs, retired or quit on their own.
But it's another perk and "little hidden secret" available to federal employees — bridge benefits — that is irking business groups and pension experts, and appears to be in the Harper government's crosshairs.
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