The Dayton Daily News reports that the lawsuit claims
Miamisburg, Ohio-based NewPage’s decision breaches collective bargaining agreements
for workers at its Wisconsin paper mills, and violates the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act (ERISA). It alleges collective bargaining agreements reached
between NewPage — or its predecessors — and the United Steel, Paper and
Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers
International Union (AFL-CIO/CLC) or its predecessors give the company no right
to unilaterally shift health-care costs to employees once they have retired.
NewPage confirmed that it notified retirees in November
that employees over 65 years old who retired after 1985 would gradually see their
premium subsidies reduced, according to the news report. In 2010, retirees will
receive 66% of the premium subsidy they received this year. That will drop to
33% in 2011 and will disappear in 2012.
“NewPage is not terminating retiree health-care
benefits,” spokeswoman Shannon Semmerling said in a prepared statement,
according to the Daily News. “We will continue to provide access to
retiree health-care plans and continue to seek low-cost options in order to
keep plans affordable.”
Semmerling also said the action is necessary to keep the
company financially viable and benefits available and affordable amid “unprecedented
The lawsuit seeks class action certification, an
injunction to keep NewPage from terminating or modifying retiree health
benefits, and reimbursement of attorney fees and other costs.
As employers continue to shift health costs to retirees (see Employers Continue to Shift Health Costs to Retirees), other lawsuits have sprung up, most recently against the city of Cincinnati (see Cincinnati Retirees Go to Court Over Retiree Health Care).