For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy Webber, 518.782.9400, ext. 223
Randi Hoffman, 212.785.0157, ext. 118
NEW YORK, March 5, 2009 – More than one hundred registered nurses rallied today outside the NYSNA offices at Wall and South Streets to dramatize their demand that their employers help protect their pension plan.
The nurses, all members of the New York State Nurses Association, are concerned that, instead of taking action to preserve the plan, hospital CEOs may use the provisions of a federal law to decimate nurses’ retiree benefits. If so, there could be mass retirements of nurses from New York hospitals.
“Nurses who have poured their lives into their jobs for decades are now facing an uncertain future,” said Lorraine Seidel, RN, E&GW Program Director of the Nurses Association . “We don’t understand why employers won’t take advantage of legislation that allows them to defer the impact of the stock market collapse on our pension plan.”
The NYSNA Pension Plan is a multi-employer, defined benefit plan that covers more than 13,000 RNs working in the New York metropolitan area. The plan started 2008 in healthy condition, funded at more than 100%. It ended the year funded at less than 75%, due to unprecedented crash in the value of its investments. Most pension plans and 401(k)s experienced the same fate.
“This problem wasn’t even on the radar a year ago,” said Seidel. “Now the provisions of the Pension Protection Act come into play.”
The PPA was enacted in 2006 to ensure that pension plans were appropriately funded by employers. Underfunded plans (in the “red zone”) were required to develop strategies that would get them into the “green zone.” A little-known provision of the law requires that these strategies include a reduction in retiree benefits.
Aware of the looming crisis for pensions, Congress passed legislation in December 2008 allowing plan trustees to ignore their funds’ performance in 2008 and stay in the green zone for one year. Most, if not all, of the affected plans are taking advantage of this option.
Inexplicably, the NYSNA Pension Plan trustees that represent employers have refused to decide to “stay green.” They have little time left, as an actuary must file a report on the status of the plan by the end of March.
If employers don’t take the deferment, hundreds of nurses could retire within months. It is estimated that 2,800 RNs in the plan are eligible for retirement. Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx could lose 22% of its RN workforce. The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan could lose 18%.
“A mass retirement would have a devastating effect on facilities that already are dealing with a nursing shortage,” said Seidel. “We hope employers will come to their senses and ‘go green.’”
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 36,000 members, it is the state's largest union and professional association for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.