Nortel Pensioners Resigned to Their Fate

A former Nortel vice president is trying to collect 25,000 signatures via an online petition. He hopes it will pressure the federal government in Canada to step in and help retirees of the once-great telecom equipment giant that went bankrupt in January 2009. Problem is, hes only been able to get 300 names in two weeks.

John Tyson told the Ottawa Business Journal that a lot of his friends and former colleagues are desperate as they face losing more than one-third of their pensions value at the end of the year, yet this struggle has gone on so long, that many of them have become numb and “resigned to their fate,” the explanation he gives for his petitions slow start.

A bill that would have made changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and put pensioners ahead of creditors in the payback pecking order failed to make it through Parliament, dying in the House on May 26. Thats when pensioners became especially discouraged, Tyson said.

The fact the new petition is failing doesnt come as a huge surprise. A previous petition garnered 17,000 signatures, but was ineffective at getting lawmakers attention and didnt draw much media interest either, Tyson said. “When they presented the pension and they put out a media release, there was no column inches (in newspapers) devoted to it,” he told the OBJ. Something else is required the court of public opinion and leverage.”

Theres little time for things to change. The Financial Services Commission of Ontario takes over Nortels defined-benefit pension plans on Sept. 30. Nonetheless, Tyson and some former co-workers are organizing an 11th hour rally on Sept. 15.

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