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Michelin pensioners vow to move on despite recent court decision

by Keith Corcoran

 BRIDGEWATER - A group representing hundreds of Michelin pensioners vows to appeal its case all the way to the highest court in the wake of a decision ordering one of its members to pay the corporation's legal bills.

 "We are moving ahead with an appeal with the expectation that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada," said Bridgewater resident Peter Eichel, a member of the concerned pension group.

 Nova Scotia Supreme Court determined recently that retired Granton plant worker Everett Smith is liable for $300,000 of Michelin's legal costs.

 Mr. Smith represents the pensioners.

 "The decision regarding legal costs was arrived at in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court's first decision," Mr. Eichel said. "The latest decision you're inquiring about merely determines who is liable and for how much. For example, the costs could have been paid out of the pension plan if the judge so decided."

 Pension plan members claimed Michelin owed the pension fund nearly $300 million. They claimed the tire giant used a surplus within the plan to cover yearly contribution requirements over two periods in the mid- to late 1980s and again in the late 1990s to 2001.

 Nova Scotia Supreme Court dismissed the application last October, ruling Michelin lived up to its contribution obligations and didn't have to pay the millions of dollars into the pension fund.

 "Michelin offered to cover its own legal costs if we dropped the lawsuit indicating that they are very concerned about this moving to the Supreme Court," Mr. Eichel said, adding the matter is definitely "not over."

 Meanwhile, Janet Kennedy, director of personnel group services for Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., is naturally pleased with a judge's decision favouring the corporation.

 "We have always complied with the Pension Benefits Act, and any changes we proposed over the years, including many plan improvements, had been reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities."

 Michelin operates three Nova Scotia plants, including one in Bridgewater's business park. The local facility, which produces steel-cord products and tires for cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles, employs about 1,100 people.



posted on 03/25/08
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