Union tracking former Hollinger employees
to safeguard benefits, pensions
Conrad Black's holding company in
future uncertain for Southam, Thomson,
CWA Canada is enlisting the help of Locals
across the country in its search for former or retired members
who worked for a newspaper in the Southam, Thomson, Sterling
or Hollinger chains.
More than 3,000 former employees of Hollinger Canadian Publishing
Holdings (HCPH) have to be tracked down by a Toronto law
firm that is representing their interests in bankruptcy court
proceedings involving their benefit and pension plans.
Arnold Amber, director of CWA Canada, says
the national union is working with Koskie Minsky LLP to protect
the rights and livelihoods of former and retired members
who worked at any of the newspapers purchased by media baron
Conrad Black. They include major dailies such as the Vancouver
Sun, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen and The
HCPH, which sold off those newspapers and is now essentially
an empty shell, was recently granted an extension of its
bankruptcy protection to April 15 to restructure an assortment
of benefit and pension plans.
Ernst & Young, appointed by an
Ontario Superior Court judge to oversee the restructuring
under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA),
reported that HCPH administers two unfunded retirement
plans, other post-employment benefit plans and six registered
The accounting firm, in a letter
to retirees just before Christmas, said all pension and benefit payments
were continuing in their normal course.
Amber says there is a "general
belief that the main Hollinger pension plan is in good
shape and has enough funds to meet all its ongoing commitments.
But there are other smaller Hollinger pension plans that
might not be adequately funded. They are the HCPH pension
plan for employees of newspapers formerly owned by Thomson,
two other plans for employees of Sterling newspapers and
the Journal Publishing Employees' Pension Fund."
CWA Canada will be following the
court proceedings closely, says Amber. "We want to
make sure everything is being done to protect our former
members, but we also have concerns about the health benefits
our retirees may get in the future. They could be reduced
or, even worse, eliminated."
Koskie Minsky will deal with any issues
that affect post-employment and post-retirement benefits,
other than registered pension plan benefits. The law firm
has set up a web
page for HCPH retirees
which it will update as information becomes available.
"Pension benefits from the registered pension plans
are a separate issue from health benefits and supplemental
pension benefits," the law firm explains on the web
page. "We are advised that the pension fund of the registered
pension plans is part of a trust fund which continues to
operate even though HCPH filed for CCAA protection. We have
been advised that the company is currently obtaining an updated
actuarial valuation of the registered pension plans to determine
the funded status of the pension plans. We will be provided
with that valuation when it is complete and will report further
to all retirees at that time."
CWA Canada is asking that contact information
for any former or retired members who worked for any of the
old chains be sent to Marj Botsford at head office: firstname.lastname@example.org