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Potential pension cuts for 5,200 local Teamsters delayed

Potential pension cuts for some active and retired Teamsters in New York state, including about 5,200 in Western New York, are on hold for at least a couple of additional months.

The New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, which has about 34,000 participants statewide, had submitted a plan to the U.S. Treasury Department, seeking permission to impose the cuts. The Syracuse-based fund said reductions, which could have taken effect July 1, were necessary to keep the fund from running out of money.

Now the fund's board of trustees has withdrawn its application, putting off potential cuts until later this year.

"The board made this decision based on communications from the Treasury Department suggesting the first application would be denied," said Tom Baum, the retiree representative for the fund, in a letter to fund participants.

"The fund is planning to submit a new application as soon as possible, and the Treasury Department has indicated that it would work to expedite its review," Baum said. The fund expects the cuts proposed in the new application could take effect Sept. 1.

If the Treasury Department approves the plan, participants will still get to vote on the cuts. But even if members voted against imposing the reductions, the Treasury Department could implement them under certain circumstances.

The fund's initial application, filed last year, called for cutting active participants’ monthly benefits by 20 percent, and reducing retirees’ benefits by 31 percent, with some exceptions. Participants 80 or older would have seen no reduction in their benefits, and those ages 75 to 79 would have had their benefits cut by lesser amounts, depending on their age. Participants receiving a disability benefit from the fund also would not have seen a reduction.

The fund had said without those deep cuts the plan would go insolvent by 2027, as the number of active workers participating in the fund continues to shrink, while the number of retirees keeps rising.

Baum said the size of the cuts under the new application "remains to be seen," but he said there is "some reason to hope that the cuts under the new application will not actually be deeper," since the fund's investment earnings in the past few months were better than expected.

About 15 percent of the participants are workers and retirees from Local 449 in Buffalo and Local 264 in Cheektowaga. Statewide, nine Teamsters locals participate in the fund.

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