Fixed annuity rate changes may mean TV fixers’ annuity payments are on the line if they don’t fix their equipment or maintain their coverage, CBC News has learned.
Annuity payments for TV fixer jobs are at the mercy of market factors like interest rates and the length of their contracts.
Annuities are pegged to a fixed interval, which is defined as 30 days.
When the interval falls below that, a higher amount is owed.
The longer the interval, the more the fixed annuity is due.
Annual fixed rate payments for these jobs are pegged at 6.5 per cent of their salary.
In some cases, they’re pegged at 7 per cent.
“I would say it’s really important to be paying those [annuities] in a timely fashion because that could mean that your total cost of living could increase,” said Dave DeLong, president of the Canadian Television and Radio Engineers Association.
“You can’t take a vacation or a week off and not pay your annuity.”
TV fix jobs are a critical job in the broadcast television industry.
In addition to fixing equipment, they also serve as the network’s signal for air traffic controllers, and help them communicate with broadcasters.
TV fix job vacancies are a problem, said David O’Brien, who teaches television repair at Concordia University.
“It’s just a lot of jobs that are really in need of the people that do those jobs,” he said.
“There’s just too many of them that don’t have any kind of guaranteed income that they can use for any kind, including a guaranteed vacation.”
O’Malley says the fixed-rate system has been in place since 1993.
It’s been used in other industries and was even considered for the Olympics.
The fixed-income system was developed by the Communications Security Establishment Canada and Canada’s Department of Justice, which created the federal government’s Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to protect the interests of retirees.
“The problem is that there’s a whole industry of fixers and repair people, and these people don’t necessarily have access to the basic benefits of a full-time job,” O’Leary said.
The CPP provides health, social assistance, disability and pension payments for all Canadians.
The government says the CPP has an annual revenue of about $4.7 billion, but many TV fix workers say the money they earn is going toward salaries, not their pensions.
“A lot of these people that are out there working, they don: They don’t get a job and they don ‘t get a pension,” said DeLong.
“What are they supposed to do?
They’re basically taking their pensions.”
The federal government has promised to introduce legislation to make the CPPs contribution more generous to fixers.
“We are committed to making it easier for Canadians to get the support they need, while protecting their basic needs,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Finance told CBC News.
In a letter to the CBC, the government said it would look at changes to the CPPP to ensure it was fully compatible with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rules and that fixed annuities were properly set out in the CRTC’s guidelines.
“While this is an important matter, we need to look at ways to ensure that the payments that fixers receive are based on a fair and consistent standard,” the CRT spokesperson wrote.
In the meantime, O’Kelly, who has been fixer since 1989, said his contract will be terminated if he doesn’t fix his equipment by Aug. 31.
“If I can’t get it fixed by then, then it’s not going to work,” he told CBC.
“Unless there’s some kind of change in the legislation that comes down the pipe that will bring the rates up to something that’s going to be competitive, which would be hard to see happening.”
The National Post has reached out to the Communications and Government Relations Office of the CRCC for comment.