The Pension Connection
Another demand made by management in the healthcare discussions was the right to end the Guild-Times Pension Plan for new hires. Instead, new hires would get a defined contribution plan of some kind. We don’t know what kind because the company won’t tell us.
What’s more, management wants full control over how the Pension Plan’s considerable assets are invested.
It seems obvious to us that this is the first step toward trying to end the traditional pension plan for current Guild-covered employees when the contract comes up for renewal in 2011. Our contract now prevents the company from making any such changes in the pension plan without Guild approval.
The company told non-Guild employees on October 23 that the benefit formula that determines the future value of their defined benefit pension plan will be reduced on January 1, 2009. It also said those employees would get a higher company match to their 401(k) accounts – but 40 percent of it will be made in the form of Times Co. stock.
Given the current gyrations on Wall Street and the impact on your 401(k) accounts and other investments, the value of a guaranteed defined benefit plan like the Guild-Times Pension Plan has become much clearer.
As reported late last year, the Guild made a proposal that would have saved the company millions of dollars in annual contributions to the Pension Plan. By enabling the plan to be a legitimate multi-employer plan, the Guild proposal would have allowed the company to take advantage of more flexible pension funding options and avoid the new stricter funding requirements for single-employer plans.
The proposal would have saved the company at least $20 million over the next few years without reducing Guild members’ pension benefits in any way. For 2008 alone, preliminary estimates were that the company would have had to contribute only $11.7 million into the Pension Fund under the Guild’s proposal, instead of the current estimated minimum contribution of $15-$21 million, which could grow to as high as $29 million.
The idea behind the Guild’s offer was that The Times could have put some of the money it saved into the Benefits Fund. But The Times turned us down, for reasons known only to upper management.
“None of the options are particularly appealing, but I believe that when Guild members examine the facts we have presented, they will agree that the alternative we have developed is the best way to go,” said Guild President O’Meara.
“We’ll still have a health plan that we can influence,” he added. “In 2011, we can go into contract negotiations and try to get The Times to increase its funding to what other companies of its size spend on their employees’ health care.”
Schedule of Meetings
Meetings for members at The Times, Times Digital and WQXR to discuss and vote on the Guild’s proposed rescue plan for the Guild-Times Benefits Fund will be held at the following times and places:
--Monday, October 27 at 12:30 p.m. Washington Bureau. INFORMATIONAL MEETING.
– Tuesday, October 28 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Guild office, 1501 Broadway Suite 708 (7th Floor). INFORMATIONAL MEETING
– Friday, October 31 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Times Center. VOTE.
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