Nortel Stiffs Pensioners, Except for CEO

Nortel Networks Corp. (NT) just keeps hitting its ex-employees with bad news. Today comes word that the bankrupt telecom equipment maker will slash $8.1 million from pension plan withdrawals.

The move impacts 180 former workers, some of whom retired early to spend time with family members in ill health. The $8.1 million in cuts also come on top of a total absence of severance pay.

Nortel says it has to protect shrinking fund assets, and make sure current and future pension recipients receive equal treatment. (That’s one of those twists of logic that make a person think, “Huh?”)

Here’s the kicker: Nortel CEO Mike Zafirvoski is guaranteed a lifelong pension of $366,000.

On top of that, his 2008 compensation alone totaled $9.68 million. Apparently that’s the reward you get when you lead a company into – and not necessarily out of – bankruptcy.

So the upshot is, while many of Nortel’s former, hard-working employees are scraping to make ends meet, Zafirovski will be living high on the hog. At least, for as long as Karma doesn’t find him.

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