LABRADOR WEST, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Former Wabush mines workers attended a special meeting in May. At the time they were given some explanation of the process that was being followed by appointed pension plan administrators and lawyers for salaried workers and unionized workers.
Pensions that had been cut for several years would be restored, not to 100 per cent but to approximately 90 per cent of the amount they were supposed to receive.
At the time they were also told that part of the funding agreed to in negotiations with Cliffs (the former owner of the mines) was that a medical rebate would be given to the former workers.
When pensions were reduced, medical benefits were discontinued, making it a very difficult situation for many.
The agreement did not include restoration of medical benefits, but would share an amount of money for the workers who had lost those benefits.
Recently many of those former workers received their rebates.
Ron Barron of Wabush was one of the members of the Wabush Mines Pension Committee.
“It is good for these people to receive that money,” he told The Aurora. “That will compensate to some degree for the amount of money that they had negotiated.”
Barron said this never should have been allowed to happen and workers who dedicated their lives to make a company viable for so many years should not be able to have negotiated benefits like pensions and medical benefits stripped away.
The amount each person received varied, based on a number of factors like how much they had used up on their benefit limits, age and other factors.
Most people contacted by The Aurora were reluctant to divulge the amount of money they received, but some did say amounts varied between $5,000 and $10,000, some less some more.
“This is taxable, so people will have to claim when they file next year’s taxes. I don’t agree with that,” Barron said. “I think people should have been given an option to transfer the money to something like a tax-free savings account, as some will use this for future medical expenses.”
Now that the rebates have been dispersed, former workers are also expecting the increased pension funds to start appearing as well in the near future.
In May, during the initial meeting, co-chairs of the Wabush Mines Pension Committee, Rita Pynn and Ron Barron said it’s been a roller coaster ride for several years for many former workers, and they thanked those who worked hard on this file.
Barron hopes the rebates and the impending pension increase will be a relief for many.
“I’m not happy that it came to this, but I can live with it,” he said.