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Nortel Pensioners Fight Benefits Deal Struck Last Week

A $57 million pension concession isn’t good enough for some disabled former Nortel Networks employees.

That’s because the agreement doesn’t protect workers past the end of 2010 and forces people who accept the terms to give up their right to sue the bankrupt telecom equipment maker.

To that end, a number of disabled Nortel employees are asking Canada’s federal lawmakers to oppose court approval of the deal, which was reached on Feb. 8. Judges are to meet on March 3.

Nortel workers who don’t like the pending contract say it’s unfair to pay bonuses to employees lucky enough to still have their jobs while failing to protect former staff. Diane Urquhart, an independent financial analyst helping the disabled employees, called the arrangement “immoral” and told CBC News the $92 million in possible bonuses, which Nortel is pressing U.S. and Canadian courts to approve, ought to fund disabled workers’ health and welfare costs instead.

Pensioners who feared they’d lose their company-covered benefits by March 31 will continue to get coverage through Sept. 30. After that, the pension plans will be moved to a government administrator. Nortel also will establish a fund, valued at $4.2 million in Canadian dollars, for termination payments.

The agreement impacts tens of thousands of pensioners, long-term disability recipients and workers who lost their severance pay after Nortel filed for bankruptcy last year.


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