Another Public Pension Plan Financing Anti-Union Activities at Windsor Salt Comes to Light

Another Public Pension Plan Financing Anti-Union Activities at Windsor Salt Comes to Light

In addition to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSPIB) also has major investments and, as a result, a seat on the Board of Managers of Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. (SCIH), the cartel that is engaging in union-busting activities at Windsor Salt in Windsor, Ontario. The PSIPIB controls the pension funds of the federal public service, the Canadian Armed Forces and Reserves, and the RCMP.

The PSPIB is a Crown corporation which directly implicates the federal government in Stone Canyon’s union-busting activities. This shatters the myth that the government is neutral in labour disputes. According to its website, the PSPIB reports to the Ministers responsible for the pension plans through quarterly financial statements and annual reports. The PSPIB communicates on an ongoing basis with the Chief Actuary of Canada, Treasury Board officials and other Government of Canada officials in the execution of its statutory mandate. François Dufresne represents the PSPIB on SCIH’s Board of Managers. He is a senior director of private equity with the PSPIB.[1]

The PSPIB was established by an Act of Parliament in September 1999. As of March 31, 2021 it had net assets of CAD$230.5 billion under its management. In June 2021, the PSPIB reported that its net assets under management grew by nearly $26 billion, up 12.7 per cent from $204.5 billion at the end of the previous fiscal year.

The PSPIB’s practices are said to be guided by a code of conduct with high ethical standards. These standards are:

– Acting with integrity and honesty
– Complying with applicable laws
– Protecting our assets and confidential information
– Preventing conflicts of interest

The fact that PSPIB’s seat on SCIH’s Board of Managers puts it in a position to oversee the holding company’s actions, such as strike-breaking activities at Windsor Salt, calls into question PSPIB’s practices and adherence to the stipulated code of conduct. SCIH’s conduct has been to do whatever unscrupulous actions it can get away with to impose the contract it wants which will bypass the union and result in breaking the union. Current tactics have resulted in needlessly keeping the workers out on strike. This is not something the majority of public service workers would consider having integrity or acting with honesty, as demonstrated by their nation-wide strike in defence of their right to negotiate their wages and working conditions to uphold the standards for all Canadian workers.

The implication of another major Canadian public sector pension fund in the strike-breaking activities of a U.S. holding company is something which concerns the labour movement in Canada. The workers do not agree to having their retirement savings used to finance unscrupulous companies which cause harm to the workers in the U.S. and Canada or anywhere in the world. These investments are carried out based on the claim that fund managers are not political and their mandate is to get the highest returns on the investments. Codes of conduct and ethical standards are entrenched but the workers have no role in defining these in a concrete way which enables them to exercise control over the investments.

In the current situation, knowing that the PSPIB has investments in and sits on the Board of Managers of Stone Canyon, public sector workers can raise their voices to hold it to account and even demand that the PSPIB divest from SCIH. Stone Canyon is engaged in unscrupulous behaviour to prolong the salt workers strike in Windsor so as to impose a contract that is not suitable to the workers which, to boot, results in union-busting. Members of the armed forces who believe in their function to defend Canada might also consider raising their voices as to where their retirement funds are invested.

Support the salt workers! Speak out to demand accountability for where retirement funds are invested!


1. François Dufrense also serves as a director of TeamHealth, Inc., a large private health care practice in the U.S., based in Knoxville, Tennesee that offers health care services through more than 15,000 “affiliated healthcare professionals,” who act as contractors in the provision of health care. He is also a member of the board of directors of Fives SAS, a global French engineering group that designs and supplies machines, process equipment and production lines for various industries. He also serves as a director of Northwest Fiber, LLC (“Ziply Fiber”), a broadband internet provider over a fiber to the home network in the Pacific Northwest, United States.

Prior to PSPIB, Dufresne was Vice President Corporate Development and Chief Financial Officer at Ovivo Inc., a Montreal-based company that designs and delivers water treatment systems around the world. From 2002 to 2013, Dufresne was a partner at EY in Canada. From 1997 to 2002, he was Vice President Corporate Development at Telesystem International Wireless Inc., a Montreal-based company that operated wireless voice and data networks in several countries around the world. Prior to that, until 1997, Dufresne spent 11 years at Arthur Andersen in Canada.