BATH, Maine -- Several unions have filed complaints against a shipbuilder, alleging it merged pension funds without negotiating the move with the unions.
Bath Iron Works Inc., which has pension assets of about $61 million, failed to consult with employees before merging its pension fund last year with that of its parent corporation, General Dynamics Corp. of Falls River, Va., according to the complaints filed by the unions.
Bath Iron Works spokeswoman Sue Pierter would not comment on the pension fund merger.
"Under the National Labor Relations Act no pension fund merger can be made without negotiations," said Paul Rickard, assistant to the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, which is investigating the unions' complaints.
Local Lodges S6 and S7 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Bath Marine Draftsmen's Association filed complaints against the company. The complaints are separate because each union has its own contract, but they will be heard together.
Paul Parquette president of Local S7, refused to give any details regarding the Bath Iron Works pension fund, but said General Dynamics has taken the employees' money and put it in their pocket.
"We dedicated a certain amount of money to Bath Iron Works in 1994 and in 1997 because (the pension plan was) underfunded," Mr. Parquette said. "General Dynamics' (pension plan) was overfunded, and when they merged they were fully funded and our money was no longer needed, so we would like our money back."
According to Pensions & Investments' annual survey of the largest U.S. pension funds, General Dynamics had total retirement assets of $7.905 billion as of Sept. 30, 1998, with defined benefit assets of $4.8 billion and defined contribution assets of $3.1 billion (P&I, Jan. 25).
Mary Cunningham, president of the Bath Marine Draftsmen's Association, said the union signed a three-year contract March 16 with the understanding the pension merger was in the planning stages, but that it was too early for negotiations. But on April 14, she said, the pension merger plan was complete.
"We requested information on the plan and they [Bath Iron Works executives] wouldn't send it. Then they had one memo about the plan they said they could send us, but we didn't receive it until four months later," Ms. Cunningham said. "We wanted to negotiate on the savings plan, but they said they would not negotiate. We wouldn't sign and they said 'then we will merge the plan without you.' "
Noreen Lyons, staff vice president of public affairs at General Dynamics refused to comment. She said it was against General Dynamics' policy to discuss issues that are in litigation.