Retirees of Westinghouse Electric Corp., upset over not having an increase in their pension checks in more than 10 years, will take their gripe to the front steps of the company's headquarters in Pittsburgh in a rally this morning.
The rally is aimed at pressuring the company into at least listening to their plight.
It is expected to draw hundreds of former Westinghouse workers from five states, including past employees of the large Electronic Systems Group complex in Linthicum.
Richard T. O'Leary, president of Local 130 of the International Union of Electrical Workers and organizer of the rally, acknowledged that Westinghouse has no contractual obligation to boost pension payments, but he said the company has a moral obligation to assist people who worked at the company for 20, 30 or 40 years and helped make Westinghouse a large and profitable company.
Mr. O'Leary said that in past contract negotiations with Westing
house, including the talks held last summer, the company has "refused to even discuss the matter when it was put on the table. The purpose of this rally is to get them to listen to the problems of their retirees."
The union representative said the average Westinghouse pension is $3,400 to $3,500 a year and that the real value of those checks has declined about 40 percent since 1981.
Westinghouse says that despite not boosting the pension checks in more than a decade, it has one of the most comprehensive retirement packages in its industry.
James Schmidt, a spokesman for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, said that "in addition to its good pension plan" the company's retirement plan "includes excellent health-care coverage, dental and vision-care benefits, life insurance and education assistance."
He said there is also a savings plan in which the company adds 50 cents to each dollar saved by former workers, up to 6 percent of their overall income.
Mr. Schmidt set the cost of Westinghouse's retiree benefit package at about $70 million a year.
He said that no meeting was scheduled today between the company and union officials, but added that the union had not requested a meeting.