The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union has filed a request with the U.S. District Court in New Jersey to get a temporary restraining order against Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) over claims that the French company plans to use money for retirees' health care to cover its own pension funding obligations.
Under the proposed plan, CWA said that Alcatel-Lucent will move 20,000 retirees and 20,000 retirees and an additional $1.2 billion from the Lucent Technologies Pension Plan into other company pension plans that aren't as well funded.
Today, Alcatel-Lucent has three pension plans: one covering only retirees and surviving spouses, the Lucent Technologies Pension Plan (LTPP); a second covering current workers; and a third covering company management.
Alcatel-Lucent told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that it could not comment on pending litigation.
CWA said in its filing that transferring these funds would violate the current collective bargaining agreement between Alcatel-Lucent and CWA.
Additionally, it would violate a separate, standing agreement by Alcatel Lucent, CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) over using excess pension funds to pay workers' post-retirement health benefits. This agreement is in effect through the end of 2019.
"The transfers, if allowed to proceed, would result in a significant reduction of the amount of excess funding of the LTPP," the filing noted. "The bargaining parties intended that those assets be used exclusively to pay, in part, the post-retirement health benefits of LTPP plan participants (current retirees and surviving spouses). The improper diversion of the excess LTPP assets jeopardizes the ability of the Company to continue subsidizing promised post-retirement health benefits."
The CWA's request comes at an interesting time. Alcatel-Lucent is currently in the process of being acquired by Nokia (NYSE:NOK), a deal that is set to close early next year after it meets necessary regulatory approvals.
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