Productive meeting held with company

Allan T. Bedard

A productive and cordial meeting was held between Resolute Forest Products Ltd. officials and members of the Senior Retirees Against Pension & Elder Abuse on April 19 at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre boardroom.
Attending company officials were pension and benefits administrator Benoit Briere and Mike Donovan (human resources) from corporate office, along with mill manager Andre Bernier and human resources manager Dave Berry of the Fort Frances Division.
Attending officers and SRAP&EA members were chair Allan T. Bedard, vice-chairs Gordy Bell and Nick Wihnan, and Bill Krukoski, Wendell Stevens, Rudy Gustafson, Roy Legarie, Don Baldwin, Ed Haglund, John Woods, Noris Piccinato, Nick Kawulia, Thor Cox, and Rick Whalen.
Several guests also were invited by the company.
Briere conducted a PowerPoint presentation explaining the status of our pension fund and answered many questions.
There are more than 17,000 pensioners in the Abitibi plan that presently are retired, of which 700 are from the Fort Frances Division.
Several questions were asked regarding the pension plan and its funds, ranging from the amount of money in cash in the fund ($4.3 billion) to the amount of money needed to secure 100 percent funding for the guaranteed benefits needed to maintain the fund ($5.6 billion).
This left a shortfall of $1.3 billion, or roughly a 20-cent shortfall per dollar provided in benefits to the active retirees.
In other words, if the plan was to wind up, this shortfall would see the pension money received by each retiree reduced by about 20 cents on a dollar.
As far as the questions on the retirees’ benefits, that matter was not open for discussion at this time as the company apparently is in arbitration over these issues.
We will continue to follow up on this issue.
As well, a review of the agreement reached between Ontario officials from the Ministry of Finance, Quebec officials, and company and union officials was discussed.
We are in the process of attempting to secure a copy of this 10-page document.
What was learned was the Quebec government backdropped the 6,000 Quebec members in the pension fund, committing to those members that they would offset any reduction to their retirement income.
Ontario would not make such an agreement, referring to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund which would have little, if any, impact on the Fort Frances Division.
Briere discussed the company contributions committed to the fund over the next 10 years and the make-up needed the next five years after. He also stated the company, along with the CEO [Richard] Garneau, are committed to fully funding this plan.
Requested from the company was the following:
•an answer in writing to all our prepared questions given the company;
•provide us with a copy of the PowerPoint presentation;
•hold a pension meeting in Fort Frances for all retirees and surviving spouses, showing the PowerPoint presentation and allowing questions to be asked that are a concern to those retirees and surviving spouses; and
•allow a senior retiree selected from the retirees from the Fort Frances Division to sit as a board member on the Retirees Pension Fund given the inner mill employees are separate from this plan and fund and are into a new and separate plan.
As such, we feel our interests are not properly represented by our concerns.
The company stated it would consider the last two requests (a meeting and allowing a member from the retirees to sit on the board).
The other material will be provided to us shortly.