The Hearst Corp. has proposed a merger of the existing Guild pension fund with another company fund. Union trustees are weighing whether to begin talks about merging the two funds.
On the upside, the merger could potentially strengthen the fund financially and secure benefits for a longer time frame. The downside is that Guild trustees would no longer have any say in how the funds are invested or what benefit changes are made.
The plan’s actuary, who is now independent, says our fund is sound through 2010 but could see a shortfall in 2011 and beyond. What happens is dependent on circumstances that cannot be predicted: how the stock market fares and whether Congress passes legislation, now proposed, that would aid pension funds like ours.
If there was a shortfall and a major contribution increase was needed to sustain the fund, the Company says it would look to layoffs to pay for it. This comes despite the fact that the Company has refused for more than 20 years to increase the contribution despite a steadily shrinking workforce.
The Company also won’t guarantee that it would not lay anyone off even if we merged the plans, which would result in considerable savings for the Hearst Corp.
The Hearst Broadcast Fund that the Company wants our plan to merge with is currently overfunded, but the Company is moving other plans into it in a way that could, over time, sharply diminish its surplus.
Our pension fund was not “a gift” from the Company. The Hearst Corp. was opposed to creating a pension fund, and Guild members went on strike to gain one in 1964. The result was not only a pension plan here in Albany, but other Hearst papers followed suit. Every penny that goes into our fund was diverted from wages.
If the Guild trustees decide to go ahead with negotiations over merging the two plans, a critical element will be language in the merger agreement that keeps our benefits intact for years to come. The Guild trustees are in the midst of getting input from our International and its attorney. We will keep you posted on any developments.
The Guild’s pension trustees are John Runfola, Mark Corelli, Christine Wright and Ken Crowe.