US - Democrat representative George Miller said the agreement between United Auto Workers and leaders in the House of Representatives had not bought the pensions crisis any closer to resolution.
It was announced yesterday that the UAW had backed a revised bill, which meant pensions reform could get underway within a week.
But Miller said: “The announcement may make it more likely that Republican leaders will push for a vote on their misguided pension legislation before the end of the year, but it doesn’t change the fact that their bill makes Americans’ pensions less secure. It worsens the private pension crisis rather than resolving it.”
Miller also cited an analysis by two independent agencies, the Congressional budget office and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which concluded the House bill would worsen the pension crisis by increasing claims on the federal government by billions of dollars, thus boosting the chances of a massive taxpayer bailout and the loss of billions of dollars in employee and retiree benefits.
Earlier in the month, talks between the house and UAW on the pension bill had stalled, with Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW, stating it could have forced employers with well funded pension plans to freeze pension benefits and credits, and prevented companies from negotiating pension benefits to cushion plant closings and layoffs.
Following that impasse, Miller had criticised the House for its “failure to reform pensions,” which he said would hurt American retirees. “Now Republicans are admitting defeat for this year,” he said, and described it as “a disgrace and a failure on the part of this leadership in Washington and it is a slap in the face to Americans desperate for help with their retirement.”
But an agreement had been reached yesterday, with the revised bill stipulating shutdown benefits could be provided as long as a pension plan is at least 80% funded. In addition, workers and retirees would be protected from unnecessary freezes on pension benefits and credits in cases where companies have pre-funded their pension plans.
Gettelfinger described the revised bill as “a sensible, bipartisan compromise”.
John Boehner (R-OH, chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee added that, having obtained the UAW’s support, he expected the House to pass this measure before Congress adjourned this year.
Miller said Democrats stood ready to work with Republicans on a pension bill “that truly addresses this serious and worsening crisis, and to fight any bill that puts Americans’ retirement nest eggs further in jeopardy.”
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