Union Tries to 'Shut Down' PBGC Termination Request

June 27, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Concerned that union members will be shortchanged by government assumptions, the United Steelworkers of America have filed a motion opposing the termination of two pension plans.

The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, seeks to oppose the termination of two pension plans that cover union members at Republic Technologies International (RTI).  The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) picked up the plan earlier this month (see PBGC Picks Up Another Steel Casualty ).

The USWA claims that the PBGC’s requested termination of four defined pension plans one month prior to the anticipated closure of all RTI facilities would result in the denial of “shutdown” benefits to employees with 15, 20, or more years of service to the company.  Furthermore, the USWA claims that the PBGC has allowed shutdown benefits at LTV and CSC – and says there “is no reason for them to treat RTI workers differently.”

The Steelworkers are challenging the preemptive termination date because the Union believes that PBGC is seeking to avoid paying out claims that have already been earned by its members and funded with premiums paid by the company, according to the USWA. 

The USWA says that negotiated agreements made by RTI and the USWA were specifically designed to account for the risks and uncertainties associated with steel industry employment -noting that the plans for USWA-represented employees at RTI promise a “shutdown” benefit.

The shutdown benefit enables a worker meeting certain age and service requirements to begin receiving pension benefits after the shutdown, rather than having to wait to reach a specified retirement age.