New Kaiser Labor Pact to Affect Retirement Benefits

January 30, 2004 ( - Soon after asking for permission to slash certain post-retirement benefits, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. has hammered out an amended labor contract that "modifies" current and future pension and retiree medical benefits.

In announcing the contract changes with the United Steelworkers of America, the Houston-based aluminum producer said a confidentiality agreement bars it from getting into specifics of the proposal, Dow Jones reported. The company said finalizing the pact still requires union ratification, company review, and bankruptcy court approval.

Earlier this month, Kaiser filed motions in US Bankruptcy Court for permission to cut certain post retirement benefit plans and reject major union collective bargaining agreements as part of its goal of emerging from protection by mid-2004 (See

Kaiser to Court: Let Us Drop Retiree Benefits, DB Plans ). At that time, the company said the plans, which cover medical and life insurance for about 11,000 retirees and dependents, cost it roughly $60 million in 2003 and continue to escalate significantly.

The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2002, hurt by a weak aluminum market, rising pension costs and asbestos liabilities. It has contended since that time pension concerns were among the major issues to be addressed for it to emerge from Chapter 11 protectiion.

Kaiser didn’t comment on the progress of similar pension-related discussions with the International Association of Machinists.