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November 19, 2003
ALPA Denounces Effort to Gut Pension Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.---The head of the Air Line Pilots Association today blasted an administration attempt to gut the pension bill now in the Senate.
"They are making a last-ditch, desperate push to torpedo the short-term relief provisions in the Senate bill for pension reform. They’ve sent a letter to the Senate leadership, packed with mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods," said Capt. Duane E. Woerth, president of ALPA.
The letter was signed by the three cabinet secretaries comprising the governing board of the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation and sent to the Senate majority and minority leaders, plus the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.
"These members of the administration’s inner circle continue to grossly distort the facts about what actually is proposed in the Grassley-Baucus bill. For example, PBGC claims that the proposed pension changes would result in an additional $40 billion in pension underfunding. This is patently false and the PBGC and the administration know it," Woerth said.
"The Grassley-Baucus bill does not waive all pension contributions for three years. On the contrary, it still would require the normal funding of active employees’ accrued benefits during that period. All we are talking about is a short deferral of ‘catch up’ amounts that are required when a plan’s funding falls behind. In terms of the PBGC’s funds, it is a drop in the bucket; but for airlines struggling to emerge from, or avoid bankruptcy, this could be the difference between survival and failure," Woerth said.
The irony is that the PBGC’s stated goal is to avoid getting stuck with obligations that might be incurred, somewhere down the road, if maybe a company fails and terminates its defined benefit pension plan. However, by failing to give companies this short-term relief on deficit reduction contributions, they are greatly increasing the near-term probability of company failures, in which case PBGC will be stuck with exactly what it’s trying to avoid.
"We will be working closely with Senators Grassley, Baucus, Frist, Daschle and others to support their ongoing bipartisan efforts to help American workers save their pension plans – despite the objections and obstacles imposed by the Bush administration through the PBGC," Woerth said.
ALPA represents 66,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor (703) 481-4440