In 1999, when the Delphi auto parts company was spun off from General Motors, the bean counters proclaimed the pension fund then set up for salaried workers to be hale and hearty, and the separate pension fund for hourly, union-represented workers to be rather more creaky.
So, when Delphi moved out, GM promised that if the hourly workers' pension fund ever cratered, GM would make up the difference. No such promise was made for the salaried workers.
Fast-forward to 2010. Delphi, in bankruptcy for five year, finally emerged by rejoining its former parent, which also made a pit stop in bankruptcy court. The pensions, as can happen when the guaranteeing company goes bust, were canceled and put into federal receivership.
But, by that old contract, GM is topping up the pension payments for the hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers, so their loss is minimal. But the salaried workers, who have no such lifeline and are limited by the small benefits paid by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, are seeing their health insurance disappear and their monthy benefits cut by up to 70 percent.
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to name a company after an ancient soothsayer who, legend had it, would say whatever sooth you wanted, if you paid enough gold.
And maybe it's appropriate to be writing this on the Ides of March.
The story from Sunday's Buffalo News:
- Delphi retirees feeling frustrated
The salaried workers organization:
- Delphi Salaried Retirees Association
The letter from 32 members of Congress asking for help for the salaried retirees
- Dear Mr. President
As a 60 percent shareholder in GM, the federal government is in a position to do something to restore fairness for these retirees and to minimize the economic impact of the pension loss on their communities. We request that the Administration bring GM to the negotiating table to work out a fair solution for the Delphi retirees.