Class action may bring more pension benefits Proposed settlement would affect those who worked at 6 companies

April 11, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

More than 750 people who worked for a half-dozen Baltimore companies in the 1970s may be eligible for additional pension benefits worth thousands of dollars each under a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

Those who may be affected include 302 former Carling National Breweries employees and 455 who were employed by Constant Care Community Health Center, Graphic Arts Finishing Co., H. E. Koontz Creamery Inc., Haussner's Restaurant Inc. and John D. Lucas Printing Co., according to a list released yesterday by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Under the settlement, 40,000 retirees nationwide could get nearly $100 million from the PBGC, the agency that guarantees many private pension plans. The settlement of the largest case ever brought against the PBGC would resolve cases involving 11,000 pension funds.

Jane Hoden, a PBGC spokeswoman, would not estimate an average settlement for retirees. One of the case's leading plaintiffs, Mary Collins, a 70-year-old retiree in Medford, Mass., will receive about $50,000, she said.

"That is on the high end," she said.

"Every pension plan is different. Every person is different. What we're trying to do now is determine who is eligible."

Those who believe they may be eligible should call (800) 316-8857.

The employees were participants in pension plans that refused to comply with federal rule changes shortening to 10 years the vesting period -- the time a person has to work to be entitled to pension benefits.

When the companies terminated the plans in the late 1970s, the PBGC paid workers only what the plans called for under the longer vesting periods.

Workers whose pensions were affected sued the PBGC in a class-action suit.

In the case, Estella Page/Mary Collins v. PBGC, the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., sided with the PBGC. But an appeals court reversed the ruling and sent the case back to the lower court.

PBGC announced the proposed settlement in December. The District Court gave the settlement preliminary approval Feb. 28. The court is scheduled to make a final ruling June 3.

Under the settlement, employees with more than 10 years of service, or their survivors, would get 80 percent of the benefits that they would have received had the plans shortened their vesting periods.

Employees with between five and nine years of experience would receive lower percentages.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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