Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. retirees have reason to breathe a little easier today, thanks to action taken by Groupe Michelin.
Michelin has agreed to pump $380 million into eight Uniroyal Goodrich pension funds, and then merge the funds into the Michelin pension plan by the end of the year. This will take the Uniroyal Goodrich funds off the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s Top 50 list of underfunded pensions, an unwanted position the funds have held since before Michelin bought the company in 1989.
The pensions became a problem back in the early 1980s, when Goodrich and, especially, Uniroyal closed several plants and laid off thousands of workers, while many took early retirement. A number of those former employees were due pensions, and the plans just didn't have enough money to cover the debt.
As long as the government-backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. insured the pensions, the workers had nothing to worry about. However, if several plans failed at one time, along with the Uniroyal Goodrich plan, a crisis would ensue because the agency might lack funds. It would take a government bail-out to save the situation-and in today's conservative climate in Washington, that might be easier said than done.
Michelin, however, has forestalled any possible problem by agreeing to contribute to the funds. It's a sign that the French company is doing fairly well, with enough cash available to cover the hefty debt.
It also will help some 28,000 retirees sleep more soundly.
Paying the bill
Passing the buck-maybe the bill is more accurate-seems to be the goal of various business interests concerning the Superfund reauthorization.
As originally proposed by their champion, Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, the reauthorization would take off the hook any polluter that did the dirty deed before 1987. The costs of cleaning up a Superfund site would, instead, be borne by the taxpayers. Oxley's promise of 100-percent repeal of the Superfund cleanup liability before 1987 has gone by the wayside, replaced with a smaller payment requirement.
Rhetoric aside, Superfund is about money-who pays for cleanups. Dumping the costs on the public isn't the answer.