Benefits battle

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Barb Sweet
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Woman fighting to fix mistake in late husband's pension

Betty Hayes-Brewer is fighting for pension benefits she says are owed to her late husband, who worked for the Eastern District School Board.

A St. John's woman says the Eastern District School Board and the province should own up to a snafu with her late husband's pension.

"We figured everything was going on the way it was supposed to be. He wouldn't know that stuff - he was a cleaner," said Betty Hayes-Brewer after finding out that some mandatory pension contributions hadn't been deducted from her late husband Ronald's cheque.

The mistake was only discovered after she and a family member clewed up paperwork after his death.

A civil matter was filed in 2011 in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, but the matter is still before the courts and the claims unproven.

Hayes-Brewer said her husband started work part time for the school board in 1997 and was made full time in December 2005. He died at age 53 in 2009.

Prior to being enrolled in the public service pension plan, he should have been paying into the government money purchase plan (GMPP), Hayes-Brewer said.

He'd been paying into the permanent pension for a few years before his death, Hayes-Brewer said, adding if any contributions had been made to the GMPP, they would have been credited in the public service pension plan.

But the deductions weren't coming out of his cheque.

The school district has offered to fix the snafu by providing the employer's contributions and interest on the GMPP, on condition the estate makes the required employee contribution.

According to Hayes-Brewer, who rejected that offer, the estate's share would have amounted to $12,000.

"You didn't take it out of the employee's cheque, so you should put both of it in there," Hayes-Brewer said of the district.

"Right to this day, if the pension division would have been doing their audits, they would have picked it up.

"Then they told me if I gave them $12,000, which was supposedly my husband's share of the GMPP for the time he was paying into it, they would give me $135 every two weeks. But my point with that is I didn't have $12,000 as a widow to give them."

And she said to be able to afford the money, she would have to borrow it and would likely wind up with a loan payment equal to the pension stipend.

"If I did have $12,000, I don't owe them anything," said Hayes-Brewer, who hired Bristow Moyse on contingency.

"They should have taken (the deductions) out. They were at fault and I wanted it fixed up."

Neither the Eastern School Board nor the province, also a defendant in the case - the district and the school board are the first two defendants - would speak about the matter, as it is before the courts.

In its statement of defence, the school district said it doesn't accept the failure to enrol Brewer was due to negligence on the part of the district or its predecessors.

The province said in its statement of defence it relies on employers to submit information to the pension division and is under no obligation to oversee and ensure that an individual employee's contributions are properly made.

A spokesman for the school district said Friday it doesn't have specific information on any situations like Ronald Brewer's, but as it's a large organization with thousands of employees, there may be times when employees have concerns with their compensation. The situations are dealt with individually and are generally resolved to the satisfaction of both the employee and the district, the spokesman said.

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Organizations: Eastern District School Board, Supreme Court

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Right on DEE
    March 18, 2013 - 12:05

    Your right DEE .. why didn't they notice that it wasn't coming out. I certainly would of notice something like that ...

  • coco
    March 18, 2013 - 05:59

    Sounds simple. They should have been deducting. End of. Her husband died four years ago. I must be misreading this story. “If the pension division would have been doing their audits”? There’s a 2 page list online of Agencies of the Crown whose audits are done by private sector auditors: and the School Board is on it. How much is this costing the courts? Oh My. They’re spending hundreds of thousands on bonuses, millions on patronage appointments, lost cause ferries, building renovations, etc and billions on pipe dreams; more people than ever before are hungry here (increase in food banks) and they got the widow of a cleaner in court fighting for $135/bi-weekly? Yup. Something isn’t right.

  • John in Whitbourne
    March 17, 2013 - 21:46

    She can't borrow $12,000 and repay it over a couple of years to provide herself with the survivor's pension but she has hired a law firm to keep half of anything she wins in court. She should be asking the District to make sure that she gets a decent interest rate for that loan. She might win something because the incompetence of the payroll administrator has caused her damages. When I call it incompetence, I am not referring to the clerk who made the error. The responsibility is at a senior level (where they get the big bucks to supervise).

  • Dee
    March 17, 2013 - 21:40

    Did,nt you or your deceased husband question it at the time,when you noticed it was,nt being deducted should,nt you have brought the question forward then.