Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, plans to take a close look at multiemployer pension plans.
His decision follows the strike by Teamsters' members at United Parcel Service. Pension and employee benefit issues - including UPS' attempt to withdraw from the Teamsters' multiemployer plans - were key to the strike.
"In light of the recent strike . . . shouldn't we take time to examine these plans?" he said in a speech earlier this month before the National Employee Benefits Institute Foundation in Washington.
Mr. Jeffords' decision was exactly what Henry Saveth, a principal in the Washington office of William M. Mercer Inc. had predicted. In an interview, Mr. Saveth suggested that UPS' withdrawal attempt would encourage other employers to try to wriggle out of their multiemployer plans. That, he said, would open the door to congressional hearings and possible legislation.
"It put the idea in play and perhaps another employer with greater bargaining power looks at (the UPS effort) and says 'Aha'," Mr. Saveth said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jeffords also said he intends to revive legislation from the last Congress that would require employers participating in multiemployer plans to fund up their plans to 95% of their liabilities before promising benefit increases to employees. "In view of the fact that 10 of the top underfunded multiemployer pension plans belong to Teamsters, perhaps it is time to reintroduce that bill and hold hearings," he said at the NEBI conference.