Initially, when VIA Rail was formed in 1978, pensions continued to be administered by CN & CP, the respective parent railroads of the new VIA employees.  On May 22, 1979, VIA Rail registered two pension Plans with the Department of Insurance of Canada, one as the “VIA Pension Plan for Employees in Non-Scheduled Positions” the other as the “VIA Pension Plan for Employees in Scheduled Positions”.

These plans have since been revised twice to reflect the changes that came about as a result of 1989 and 1997 negotiated changes.  Subsequent to the establishment of the Plans, VIA undertook negotiation for the transfer of monies (a long drawn out process) from CN and CP into the new VIA Plans.  Even though the Plans are separate, they are invested as one – the return on investment would be identical.

In May 1978, Frank Roberts, VIA’s first President, wrote a letter to employees transferred from CN and CP welcoming them to the VIA Rail Canada family and assuring them of a continuance of the benefits that they had been accustomed to.  One paragraph of his letter (translated from a French language copy) reads as follows:

” At VIA, you will be entitled to advantages comparable to those of your former employer, these benefits include the pension Plans, termination of employment life insurance, Insurance in case of accidental death or the loss of a limb, health insurance, vacations, etc.  We will keep in mind the years of service when time comes.”

Although many pensioners have interpreted this as being a promise that these “advantages” will never be less, or different, than the current Plans of CN and CP, the paragraph does not say that.  Since the formation of VIA, it’s Plans, as well as CN’s and CP’s have evolved somewhat differently.  VIA’s Plans are preferable in many ways – witness the number of running trade positions that bid and make their last trip on VIA, to ensure their retirement under VIA’s Plan.

In 1982, VIA Human Resources, felt that there was a need for a “VIA Rail Pensioners Association” (VRPA) and arranged for Gus Campbell, retired Ontario VP, to visit the Regions and promote the formation of local chapters.  In December 1983, Letters Patent were filed, under the Canada Corporations Act, with Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada creating the “VIA RAIL CANADA PENSIONERS’ ASSOCIATION”, a body corporate and politic in accordance with the provisions of the said Act. The initial chapters were at Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.  VIA assisted by providing an initial start-up grant of $2.50 per pensioner, paid the legal expense of incorporating the Association, agreed to provide secretarial help and services, pay for mailing costs and stationary and where practical, provide meeting quarters.  John Mercier of Winnipeg was the first National President and the initial Pensioners’ representative to the VIA Rail Pension Board – representing both Plans.  He was followed in 1992 by Al Cerilli as National President and Representative to the Pension Board for scheduled employees. Ken Sing followed in these positions.  At the Pension Board, the non-scheduled group in  March 1992 represented by Bryant Gunhouse.