Impact of recession on the Valley will linger in 2010, economist says

The judge did not, however, accept retirees’ request that benefit cuts be stopped now.

By Don Shilling

YOUNGSTOWN — A judge said a federal pension agency must set money aside as it cuts Delphi Corp. salaries’ pensions just in case it loses a lawsuit the retirees filed.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow of federal court in Detroit said Tuesday the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. can either put money in escrow or stipulate that it will make the retirees whole if the benefit reductions are reversed.

Judge Tarnow issued the ruling after a Dec. 22 hearing, in which the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association argued for an injunction that would stop the cuts. The judge said he would deny the injunction if the PBGC uses one of the methods to ensure that retirees can recover money lost in pension cuts, which are to start in February.

Jeffrey Speicher, a PBGC spokesman, said the agency is reviewing the ruling and will file a response.

Bruce Gump of Howland, chairman of the Warren Legislative Group of the retirees association, welcomed the judge’s ruling.

The decision is important because federal law doesn’t provide any way for retirees to recover money lost in pension cuts if those cuts are found to be invalid later on, Gump said. The ruling would allow the retirees to make that recovery.

It also indicates that Judge Tarnow thinks enough of the lawsuit that he wants to give the retirees an option for recovering the money, Gump added.

The lawsuit claims the PBGC improperly gave up liens that it held on Delphi’s operations when it accepted the auto supplier’s underfunded pension accounts. No hearings on the lawsuit have taken place.

The retirees have been saying they will be taking cuts of between 30 percent and 70 percent when the pensions shift to the PBGC. Cuts are coming because of the agency’s benefit limits.

Much of the cuts are the result of the PBGC not paying early-retirement supplements that Delphi issued until retirees were eligible for Social Security.

Gump said about 500 salaried retirees throughout the nation have received letters their pensions will be reduced starting in February. Those contacted by the association have reported an average reduction of 25 percent and a range of between zero and 67 percent.

He said people who have not yet been notified are likely to have larger reductions because they are younger.

About 3,000 people are to receive letters this week, notifying them of cuts to take effect in March, he said.

Overall, there are about 15,000 salaried retirees, including between 1,200 and 1,500 in the Mahoning Valley.

The retirees also have been trying to gain political support in Columbus and Washington, D.C., to have their pensions restored. They say the cuts are unfair because union retirees are having their pensions restored by General Motors, with approval from the U.S. Treasury Department.

State Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, testified Tuesday in Columbus on behalf of a resolution that calls for the federal government to treat union and nonunion retirees fairly.

New jobs | 2009 results

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber posted these results from its economic development efforts last year:

kCompleted projects: 20

kJobs created: 1,052

kJobs retained: 1,685

kInvestment: $81 million

kBuilding space: 1.2 million square feet (constructed or absorbed)

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