Machinists President Defends Retirees Pension Benefits

RTB Bloomberg

IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, second from left, speaks out against a proposal to reduce or eliminate retiree pension benefits during a panel discussion, sponsored by Bloomberg Government, on the implications of reforming multiemployer pension plans.

The IAM is calling on members of Congress to reject any legislation that allows pension fund administrators to reduce or eliminate the pension benefits of retired workers.

“There is an effort afoot in Congress to repeal the current law that prohibits cuts to the fixed pension incomes of U.S. retirees and their surviving spouses,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “While there is a genuine retirement crisis in this country today, the solution must not be borne by retirees who worked hard and faithfully contributed to their pension plans and have no practical means to replace lost income.”

A proposal being promoted by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) calls for amending the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow trustees of “deeply troubled” plans to cut the retirement benefits of existing retirees. The IAM and allies in the labor, retiree and pension rights community are adamantly opposed to repealing ERISA’s “anti-cutback rule” protections as a means to shore up underfunded plans.

“Despite the economic crisis of 2008, the vast majority of multi-employer pension plans in the U.S. are still adequately funded and fully able to meet their obligations,” said Buffenbarger. “The deeply troubled plans deserve at least the same support and protection that Congress gave to the Wall Street bankers who caused the problems in the first place.”

The IAM is urging Congress to consider alternatives to the NCCMP proposal, including reasonable increases in PBGC premiums, adequate government funding for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and allowing alliances and mergers of poorly-funded and healthy plans.

The IAM National Pension Fund, a fully-funded multi-employer fund, has over 1,750 contributing employers and is the fifth largest multiemployer plan in the U.S.