Members approved a merger of the Guild pension fund into a Hearst fund by a 45-14 margin Tuesday.
Turnout was relatively low, partly due to the fact that a delay in getting a written agreement meant the vote had to happen Christmas week.
The decision clears the way for the pension trustees to vote Wednesday on merging the two funds. In return for the merger, the parties have agreed benefits will continue to accrue at current levels for the next two years. At the end of 2011, however, the Company could make decisions to reduce or freeze benefits without the union’s input. Any benefits earned to date, or over the next two years, are protected and cannot be reduced once they are earned.
“Our members weighed the benefits and risks and considered what is happening both in the newspaper industry and with pensions in general,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “The Company should realize, of course, that with great power comes great responsibility. Our members agreed to allow the merger in order to make the fund more financially secure. Future decisions about pension benefits should be based on the fund’s financial health and not any other factors including a corporate desire to ‘get out of the pension business.’ The retirement health of employees is based on their ability to get a pension.”
The company must continue to contribute the 85 cents an hour into the Hearst fund to pay for our pensions. That money comes from wages that were deferred over the years. Any change in that contribution must be negotiated.
The Guild also made clear it retains the right to bargain over pension benefits in the future.