Pension plan?
Blondin-Andrew urges feds to help Giant pensioners

Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Mar 01/00) - Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew has called the situation facing pensioners at Giant Yellowknife mine "reprehensible."

Blondin-Andrew (left) met with union officials and pensioners on Friday in Yellowknife.

"I think it's unacceptable. It's reprehensible to hear these people are going to be left out in the cold. Some of these workers have been around 20, 30, and even 35 years only to find there won't be any gold watches, let alone a nice, tight, secure pension. They're being jerked around and I'm sickened over it," Blondin-Andrew said.

Former workers were outraged last month to learn that while the pension fund for salaried workers had a surplus, the pension fund for hourly workers was broke following the sale of the mine to Miramar Mining last December. Set to go into effect April 1, workers will lose 25 per cent of their pensions.

Blondin-Andrew said Friday she's spoken to Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault and Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions) Jim Peterson.

"I've briefed him (Peterson) personally and I've been assured by him that the staff is investigating the options," Blondin-Andrew said.

Canadian Autoworkers president Marc Danis said he was "cautiously optimistic," following Friday's meeting with Blondin-Andrew.

"She informed us she's working for us on our behalf, and we appreciate that," Danis said.

The union and the pensioners claim since DIAND facilitated the deal with Miramar, it has the responsibility to make up the shortfall.

In a letter to CAW, Nault said DIAND and Peterson's office were urging the interim receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to merge the hourly and salaried pension plans to allow "adequate funds for full pensions to all Giant mine employees."

"DIAND is also exploring with the interim receiver any avenues whereby unsecured creditors of Royal Oak, including laid-off employees, might obtain some compensation from a restructuring of the company," Nault said.