Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge - Discussion Archive Forum Index Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge - Discussion Archive

 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch      RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile      Log inLog in 

Pensions of retired federal contractor employees

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge - Discussion Archive Forum Index -> Oak Ridge Issues and Discussion Topics
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2004 6:12 pm    Post subject: Pensions of retired federal contractor employees Reply with quote

Retirees from the federal contractors that operate the DOE facilities in Oak Ridge are not getting a fair deal. The value of their pensions is steadily declining. Even though the pension fund has a healthy balance (the contractors have not contributed to it for the last 20 years, because there is enough money in it to pay pensions for all active and retired workers), there currently is no provision for adjusting pensions to accommodate increases in the cost of living.

Earlier this year, the plan was amended to ensure that all pre-1993 contractor retirees with 20 years of service will get at least $600 a month and their surviving spouses will get at least $400. This should be a lifesaver for some long-ago retirees whose once-generous pension checks had been eroded away by inflation, but it does not solve the problem. There are many other retired workers -- for example, those with less than 20 years of service and those whose pensions are slightly higher than these new minimums -- who also have seen their purchasing power seriously decreased. Other AEC/DOE contractor pension programs do not treat retirees so shabbily. Not only is fairer treatment for these Oak Ridge retirees -- most of them folks who dedicated their working lives to helping the West win the Cold War -- the right thing to do, but it would benefit everyone in our area by injecting many additional dollars into the local economy.

The Coalition of Oak Ridge Retired Employees has outlined a set of requests to restore some of the lost buying power of current retirees and assure the benefits of future retirees. Their requests are reasonable ones (for example, they want pensioners to have 75% of the purchasing power they retired with -- that's a modest request), and I think our City government should lend its support to their requests -- for all of us.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 11:12 pm    Post subject: Current employees are getting future pension enhancements... Reply with quote

As an active employee of UT-Battelle, LLC, I received a letter describing enhancements to the pension plan for current employees. Employees with more than 30 years service will be eligible for higher pensions, and benefits will improve for most employees who choose an option that allows a surviving spouse to receive a partial benefit after the death of the retired employee. [ADDED on July 26: I learned today that these pension enhancements were negotiated by the Atomic Trades and Labor Council as part of the new union contract with various Oak Ridge federal employers. It seems that the benefits that the union won for hourly workers are being extended to the salaried workforce.]

This change will benefit the community in future years, but I am disappointed that I have not seen similar news regarding benefits to people who are already retired. Unlike Social Security and most private pension plans (including the pension plans at most other DOE contractor facilities), the pension plan covering retired Oak Ridge federal contractor employees has no formal provision ensuring cost-of-living increases or other adjustments for pensioners. Local retirees and our whole economy suffer as a result.

If elected to City Council, I will seek to have the City lend its support to retirees' efforts to achieve more equitable pension treatment.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2004 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am very pleased to see that the City Council will consider a resolution at its September 20, 2004, meeting to lend official City support to the Coalition of Oak Ridge Retired Employees requests for pension equity.

I hope that Council will vote to endorse the CORRE program. Pension equity is important for all of us. Information that CORRE provided to the City indicates that each year more equitable pensions would bring more than $9,694,760 in additional money into Anderson County and $3,302,250 into Roane County. That would go a long way toward improving the community's economic health.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm... If I remember correctly, City Council did lend its support to the CORRE requests. Other area governments have done the same. Cool

Here's the text of the September 20, 2004, Council minutes documenting the resolution that the Council adopted:
Quote:
A resolution urging the Tennessee Congressional Delegation, the Secretary of Energy, the DOE Oak Ridge Operations Office, and the current DOE Oak Ridge prime contractors to (1) provide fair, equitable, and competitive retirement benefits for former and present employees of DOE Oak Ridge facilities; (2) increase pension benefits to restore an average of 75% of the pension value that retirees have lost due to inflation since retirement; and (3) henceforth provide biennial cost of living adjustments for pensions of DOE Oak Ridge prime contractor retirees.


==============

A news item earlier this week grabbed my attention. It seems that some Bechtel and BWX officials who joined the new BWXT Y-12 organization shortly before retirement are now receiving full retiree health benefits from the government (by way of BWXT).

The article by Frank Munger reports that a Department of Energy Office of Inspector General audit (link to report) found that the federal government is incurring "unreasonable" costs by funding retiree health benefits for corporate officials who transfer to BWXT.

Quote:
Under an existing Oak Ridge agreement, the National Nuclear Security Administration - a part of DOE - is paying the employer's portion of post-retirement health benefits for Y-12 employees who transferred here from other jobs at Bechtel National or BWX Technologies. BWXT Y-12 is a partnership of those two companies that was set up to run the weapons plant, beginning in late 2000.

In order to qualify for those benefits, the employees must have at least 10 years of corporate service. The report, however, said that benefits should be based solely on Y-12 employees' work under government contracts.

The report said about 200 employees of BWX Technologies and Bechtel National have transferred to Y-12 since 2000, and about 25 percent of them had more than 10 years of corporate service - making them eligible for the benefits.

Auditors estimated the government is spending $460,000 for currently retired contractor employees, with a future liability of more than $7 million - based on corporate employees already at Y-12.

"For example, NNSA is paying for the post-retirement health benefits of one BWXT corporate executive who transferred to Y-12 even though he was employed at Y-12 for only three years before taking an early retirement," the report said.

Apparently BWX and Bechtel either don't have retiree health benefits or have a less generous program than the DOE contractors, so these BWXT retirees could not get the same benefits from their corporate employers. The NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration, the DOE unit that runs nuclear weapons programs) is paying the cost of their health benefits, even though they are no longer working, because there are no retiree health trust funds, and no provision in DOE contracts to set money aside for future health benefits.

Apparently, NNSA has made changes in contracts so that non-DOE-related corporate service can no longer be used to get DOE-paid retiree health benefits. However, a federal spokesperson defended the contract:

Quote:
Michael Kane, an associate administrator of NNSA, said the Y-12 contract agreement was negotiated because of BWXT's stated need to bring "culture change" to the Oak Ridge workplace.

"This culture change could only be accomplished with significant changes in management and the induction of new corporate ideas," Kane wrote in response to the inspector general's report.

If I were a retiree who had been glumly watching the value of my pension decline over the years, I think I'd be angry if I heard about a new contractor coming in to town and giving its own corporate officials a benefit that was established for local retired workers.

I don't know if these officials are also drawing their pensions from the Oak Ridge set-aside fund that exists to pay pensions to retired local workers. Money was set aside for this fund over the years, and as far as I know, DOE and its contractors have not paid new money into that fund for many years, because the fund had a large surplus. I hope that this fund is not being used to provide pensions to these short-time BWXT workers, particularly considering that BWXT and other contractors say that there is not enough money to provide needed cost-of-living increases to people who spent their working lives in Y-12 and the other local DOE facilities.


Last edited by Ellen on Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:35 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2005 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This new matter of the retiree health benefits is confusing. Confused I've edited my earlier post to correct some erroneous information.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ellen
Site Admin


Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 209
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of my opponents has discovered and embraced this issue.
In a broadcast e-mail message issued June 1, 2005, Martin McBride wrote:
Thousands of WWII and Cold War era retirees from the Oak Ridge nuclear plants struggle to get by on very small, fixed federal pensions---pensions which are currently without cost of living adjustments, said Martin McBride. These people include World War II widows who helped build this beautiful city. Their sacrifice helped make Oak Ridge the great place it is---yet their severe financial problems have largely been ignored. The City Council really needs to help these great seniors win much-needed pension reform!

McBride urges the Council to work with CORRE (Coalition of Oak Ridge Retired Employees) and the 5 surrounding counties in order to help resolve this critical problem.

Martin McBride, a current candidate for the Oak Ridge City Council, is urging the Council to become aggressively involved in a local federal contractor pension issue. The pensions in question affect an estimated 13,000 contractor retirees from the Oak Ridge federal nuclear complex. Many of these pensions---pensions which once appeared adequate---have been seriously eroded because they lack cost of living adjustments. People who retired thirty years ago, for example, have seen the Consumer Price Index rise by 266% over the years, yet their pensions have remained essentially constant! WWII-Era widows in Oak Ridge are currently trying to make ends meet on a pension of about $400 a month.

These wonderful people helped build this beautiful city---and they are now forced to live on next to nothing. The pension problem can (and must) be fixed, said Martin McBride. Dr. McBride is a candidate in the current municipal election for the Oak Ridge City Council.

The time has come for Oak Ridge government to take a strong leadership role on the pension issue. Thousands of city residents are suffering because of this problem. These are folks who sacrificed for the nation and who worked very hard to build this wonderful community. The pension issue must be resolved.

To accelerate the issue, McBride suggests that the Council seek a close partnership with a successful retiree group known as CORRE (Coalition of Oak Ridge Retired Employees). In 2004, CORRE successfully worked with DOE and Congress to raise the minimum pension benefit for widows of WWII workers from about $150 per month to about $400 per month. The CORRE website is www.corre.info. CORRE estimates that about 13,000 retirees in Oak Ridge and the surrounding area are affected by the pension problem.

I really admire the leadership shown by CORRE in organizing people and in drawing attention to this important issue, said McBride. Although much more needs to be done, CORRE has accomplished a lot. The Council's best move would be to get behind and support CORRE's pension reform efforts.

The federal pension problem also impacts a large number of retirees living in 5 counties surrounding Oak Ridge. Those counties are: Anderson, Roane, Morgan, Knox, and Loudon. These five county governments could form a very strong political base for discussions with federal officials in Washington, DC, said McBride. Yet a single government is needed to step forward and take the lead. The logical choice for that lead is the Oak Ridge City Council. The key question is: will the Council agree to take the initiative?

These retirees are very important. Considering their great service to the nation, they certainly deserve a much better deal on their pensions. I urge the City Council to get actively involved. People need action from the Council, not just rhetoric!

McBride may not be aware that the City Council passed a resolution of support for CORRE, but I agree with him that a single resolution is not necessarily enough effort from the city.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge - Discussion Archive Forum Index -> Oak Ridge Issues and Discussion Topics All times are GMT - 4 Hours
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group