One-third GE Shareholders Backs Pension Proposal

April 26, 2000 ( - For the second time in as many days, a significant number of shareholders registered their concern with large company retirement plan policies. On Wednesday it was General Electric's turn.

A  proposal protesting the gap between GE’s rank-and-file benefits and those offered to its directors, garnered the support of a full third of shares voted, according to a report by the Associated Press. The proposal was put forward by the GE Retiree Justice Fund and the Communications Workers of America Pension Fund, with just over $1 billion in assets.

While the proposal was defeated for the second year in a row, support grew from 29% at last year’s annual meeting. The GE vote came one day after 28% of IBM shareholders threw its support behind a resolution that would have given IBM’s workforce a choice in pension plans.

In GE’s case, the union proposal that would have required shareholder approval of retirement packages for the board of directors was intended to protest the lack of comparable cost of living increases for regular employees, at a time when the GE’s $43 billion pension fund enjoys a surplus.

Getting there

Carrie Biggs-Adams, an NBC editor who spoke on behalf of the union proposal at today’s annual shareholder meeting, said she was pleased that the proposal gained more support than a year ago. “We’re getting there,” she said.

A group of GE retirees protested outside the annual meeting. They claim that GE’s pensions lag the industry, a claim GE denies.

The company recently announced increases in pension benefits for 134,000 eligible retirees effective May 1.