Tops warehouse workers upset with pension agreement

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) - Some 600 Lancaster warehouse workers for Tops, who are members of Teamsters Local 264, are meeting today to learn details of a pension agreement that was worked out between Tops, C&S Wholesale Grocers (previous owners of the Lancaster food warehouse that is now run by Tops) and the NYS Teamsters Pension Fund (a separate entity from the Teamsters Union).

Under the agreement that was reached in mid-May, workers will no longer be able to participate in the Teamsters Pension Fund going forward and will get, instead, a one-time payment that averages around $25,000 into a retirement account.

"Tops is an unfriendly market," yelled one worker who drove away from the afternoon union meeting at the Teamsters' offices in Cheektowaga where the details were unveiled.

Other workers told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly they felt "robbed" of their retirement plans because the plan will only pay a fraction of what many were expecting to get after having deductions taken from their paychecks.  Those deduction were around $7/hour for older employees.

The pension agreement still has to be approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge.  If approved, it removes a huge financial $180 million burden for future pension payments from Tops, which is now going through bankruptcy restructuring.

Teamsters officials declined to comment following the afternoon meeting saying they wanted to make sure union members coming to the 6 p.m. meeting had a chance to hear the details first.

Tops said it could not discuss specifics of the pension agreement because "things are currently in the process of court proceedings."

However, Tops did issue the following statement:

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Teamsters, which will allow us to provide important benefits to Teamsters’ members.  While the agreement must be finalized and ratified and is subject to court approval, it represents an important milestone in our financial restructuring efforts."

Complicating the issue even more, union workers said Tops is hoping to negotiate a new contract with the Teamsters by June.  The workers said it was unclear how the pension agreement would end up affecting proposed provisions in the contract other than providing a small raise.

 

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