EAGAN, Minn. — The Northwest Airlines' pilots union directed negotiators to discuss with company management the possibility of freezing the pilots' defined benefit plan and starting a follow-on defined contribution plan, said Will Holman, spokesman for the Northwest division of the Air Line Pilots Association.
He said the union's master executive council unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 11 that calls for the talks; negotiators will report progress to union leadership at a regular quarterly meeting in Memphis, Tenn., March 15-18. "We are aware of the current vulnerability of defined benefit plans," Mr. Holman said, adding the pilots are looking for ways to protect the security of their retirement benefits.
The Eagan-based airline had total defined benefit assets of $4.9 billion as of Sept. 30, according to Pensions & Investments data; the asset amount in the pilots plan was not available. Gary Martin, Northwest's assistant treasurer-cash and pension investments, did not return a call seeking comment by press time. Kurt Ebenhoch, Northwest spokesman, said the airline doesn't comment on labor or contract discussions.