Kaiser Union Approves Reduced Pension, Retiree Benefit Plan

February 17, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In an effort to keep the company afloat, Kaiser Aluminum Corp steelworkers' union have ratified a reduced pension and retiree medical benefits payment schedule.

Under the settlement, remaining medical benefits for retirees would depend on the company’s performance, as would payments under a supplemental retirement plan for current workers.   Whereas, the pension plans of retirees are likely to be absorbed by the nation’s private pension insurer, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (PBGC), according to an Associated Press report.

Hourly workers at five Kaiser operations voted 705 to 158 to ratify the deal.   Had the reduction not been approved, the alternative, Kaiser and union officials said, was the near-certainty of deeper pension cuts and loss of all medical benefits for retirees.   The agreement covers about 1,200 Kaiser employees at two plants in Spokane, Washington and one each in Gramercy, Louisiana; Newark, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Richmond, Virginia.

The deal will go into effect if the aluminum company emerges form Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in which it is currently embroiled.   If a bankruptcy judge approves the agreement and other company plans, a newly reorganized Kaiser would be 75% owned by the Steelworkers.