Since the merger of CenturyLink and Qwest, we’re receiving a number of calls from members who are concerned as to what will happen to their current pension entitlements. Some believe that they should retire now, not because they want to but out of concern that they will be caught up in a change.
Comparisons between the Qwest Pension Plan and the CenturyLink Plans add to this with a number of our people wondering if CenturyLink will change the current Qwest Plan to the terms of one of the CenturyLink Plans.
• Can established pension payouts for vested employees be cut at the bargaining table?
• Can the current defined pension plan be eliminated for vested employees?
• Could the Company unilaterally buy out all pensions and end any pension coverage?
• If so, are there laws governing this?
In this merger, CenturyLink is bound by the provisions of Section 1.3 (“Successorship”) of our contract. As such, CenturyLink “. . . shall be bound by the Terms and conditions of this Collective Bargaining Agreement between Qwest Corporation, Qwest Business Resources, Inc. and CWA, and shall assume all other duties and responsibilities of a successor (as that term is construed under the National Labor Relations Act).”
Any change to any of the negotiated benefit plans is subject to the provisions of Addendum 10. Section A.10.4 states that the employer can propose changes “provided, however, that no change shall be made without the consent of the Union in the Plans which would reduce or diminish the benefits or privileges thereunder for the employees within the bargaining unit.”
By law, no change can be retroactively applied. A defined benefit Plan can only be changed on a ‘going-forward’ basis.
CenturyLink has 2 pension plans. The CenturyTel legacy Plan (which is now ‘frozen’) covering the non-represented CenturyLink employees and a second Plan which is compromised of the Pension assets of those units that CenturyLink has acquired that had pension plans. Those Plans are still in effect. Changing, eliminating or freezing those plans is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Attached is a power point covering these topics as well as how the Qwest Pension Plan works. There is also information regarding retiree healthcare and how those Plans function.
There is not reason to run out the door based on a fear of what might happen. Particularly since there is no reason to believe that anything will change either now or in bargaining. Even if there were to be such changes made, those impacted would have enough notice to be able to exercise their options under the current Plans.
Lastly, not many of our members know of or understand the Pension Survivor benefit. Members need to initiate this process if they have an interest.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please let us know.