OPTrust Announces Funding Gains

posting date Posted: July 12, 2002

Friday, July 12, 2002 - The OPSEU Pension Plan has recorded funding gains of $867 million for the three years ending December 31, 2001. The gains were identified in the Plan’s recent actuarial funding valuation, which was adopted by OPTrust’s Board of Trustees in June.

Shared risks and rewards
Under the terms of the Plan, any gains or losses are shared between OPTrust’s members and pensioners and the Government of Ontario.

The members’ and pensioners’ share of the gains from 1999-2001 is $467 million. This includes a one-time addition of $78 million, under the Plan’s original sponsorship agreement. It also reflects a $6 million reduction to cover the members’ share of the cost of benefits negotiated between OPSEU and the Government in May.

The Government’s portion of the gains totals $297 million, after a reduction of $33 million to cover its share of negotiated benefit improvements.

The Government’s share was also reduced to eliminate the $63 million balance of the Plan’s initial unfunded liability - an amount owed to the Plan when it was established. As a result, the OPSEU Pension Plan is now fully funded - 27 years ahead of schedule.


Chaft showing how the plan's 1999-2001 gains are shared

Allocating gains
The decision on how to allocate the members’ and pensioners’ share of gains is up to OPSEU, as a plan sponsor. Gains may be used to:

  • set aside a reserve to stabilize contributions in the event of a future loss in the Plan
  • pay for temporary or permanent benefit improvements, and/or
  • reduce members’ contributions.

The Government can allocate its share of gains to improve benefits, reduce employer contributions or establish a contribution stabilization fund for employers.

Any changes to the Plan must be costed by OPTrust’s independent actuaries and the total cost cannot exceed the amount of available gains. Plan changes must comply with federal and provincial legislation.

Where changes to benefits or contributions require amendments to the Plan text, both sponsors must sign the amendments before OPTrust can administer the changes.

If the Plan experiences a funding loss, members’ and employers’ contribution rates would have to increase to make up any funding shortfall.

How gains are calculated
Every three years OPTrust’s actuaries prepare a funding valuation comparing the Plan’s actual experience to the “actuarial assumptions” used to project the Plan’s funding requirements.

Funding gains occur when the Plan’s assets grow faster than the anticipated cost of members’ and pensioners’ benefits. If assets grow more slowly than needed to fund the Plan, the result is an actuarial loss.

The two major sources of gains over 1999-2001 were strong investment earnings before 2001 and slower than expected growth in the cost of pension benefits. These gains were partly offset by increased costs for early retirements. The gains were also reduced by changes to the Plan’s actuarial assumptions aimed at increasing the long-term security of the Plan.

Funding outlook
While the current gains are substantial, they are lower than the $1.34 billion realized in 1996-1998. This reflects the Plan’s lower investment returns over the past two years - including a 3.5% investment loss in 2001.

Another result of changing market conditions is a deferred investment loss of $192 million, as of the end of 2001. This loss was not taken into account when the Plan’s $867 million gains were calculated. As a result, the deferred loss will reduce potential gains in the Plan’s next funding valuation, due in 2005.

If the investment climate remains challenging and returns for 2002-2004 are below the level needed to fund the Plan, the next funding valuation would show a loss. Any losses would have to be made up either through increased contributions or the use of any contribution stabilization fund.

For more information on the gains in the OPSEU Pension Plan and OPSEU’s survey of Plan members and pensioners please see: