Wabush pensioners angry about prospect of reduced incomes – by Terry Roberts (CBC News Newfoundland – August 18, 2015)


Former mine workers fearful of a hit if Cliffs Natural Resources winds up Canadian operations

Retired workers at the now closed Wabush Mines in Labrador West say they are facing a cut in their pension incomes as their former employer, U.S-based Cliffs Natural Resources, goes through the bankruptcy protection process for its Canadian operations.

More than 100 former workers filed into the Catholic church in Wabush Monday for an information session with pension experts from the provincial government, which oversees the Pensions Benefits Act.

The closed-door meeting lasted nearly three hours into Monday evening, and was described as a tense, emotional affairs as retirees sought answers about the fate of their pensions.

Ron Barron, who worked 27 years at the mine prior to its closure in 2014, said there’s a growing level of frustration, and people want answers.

He said those answers did not come during the information session, though he’s more convinced than ever that pensioners can expect a reduction in benefits.

In his case, Barron said he stands to lose about $250 from a monthly pension of $1,561.

“At the end of the day, whatever that pension is underfunded is what we’re getting stuck with,” said Barron.

“So that’s going to mean big-time losses … everyone is going to get hit here.”

Older workers to get a bigger hit

He said workers who retired 20 or more years ago are earning far less, and now they stand to lose even more.

The fate of the Wabush Mines pension plan all hinges on Cliffs’ ability to emerge from creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, or CCAA.

The financially troubled company is attempting to sell its Canadian assets, including Wabush Mines, after closing the money-losing operations amid a slump in ore prices.

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