OPINION OF TRUSTEES
ROD Case No: 88-391 – July 16, 1991
Board of Trustees: Joseph P. Connors, Sr., Chairman; Paul R. Dean, Trustee;
William Miller, Trustee; Donald E. Pierce, Jr., Trustee; Thomas H. Saggau, Trustee.
Pursuant to Article IX of the United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”) 1950 Benefit Plan and Trust, and under the authority of an exemption granted by the United States Department of Labor, the Trustees have reviewed the facts and circumstances of this dispute concerning the provision of health benefits coverage for a Pensioner under the terms of the Employer Benefit Plan.
The Complainant’s last classified signatory employment in the coal industry was with the Respondent from November 28, 1989 until March 23, 1990. On August 29, 1990, the Complainant was awarded a UMWA 1974 Pension Plan Age 55 retirement pension, effective May 1, 1990. The Complainant was advised by letter to contact his last signatory employer, the Respondent, regarding his eligibility for health benefits coverage as a Pensioner. The Respondent was provided a copy of that letter.
According to the Complainant, the Respondent has refused to provide his health benefits coverage because he was employed by the Respondent for only a short period of time. Also, the Respondent claims that the Complainant’s previous signatory Employer should be responsible for providing his health benefits coverage.
Whether the Respondent is responsible for providing health benefits coverage for the Complainant as a Pensioner.
Positions of the Parties
Position of the Complainant: The Respondent is responsible for providing health benefits coverage for the Complainant as a Pensioner.
Position of the Respondent: The Respondent has not replied to repeated correspondence from Funds’ staff requesting its position in this dispute.
Article XX Section (c)(3)(i) of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1988 provides in pertinent part:
(3)(i) Each signatory Employer shall establish and maintain an Employee benefit plan to provide, implemented through an insurance carrier(s), health and other non-pension benefits for its Employees covered by this Agreement as well as pensioners, under the 1974 Pension Plan and Trust, whose last signatory classified employment was with such Employer. The benefits provided by the Employer to its eligible Participants pursuant to such plans shall be guaranteed during the term of this Agreement by that Employer at levels set forth in such plans…. The plans established pursuant to this subsection are incorporated by reference and made a part of this Agreement, and the terms and conditions under which the health and other non-pension benefits will be provided under such plans are as to be set forth in such plans.
Article I (1), (2) and (5) of the Employer Benefit Plan provide:
Article I – Definitions
The following terms shall have the meanings herein set forth:
(1) “Employer” means (Employer’s Name).
(2) “Wage Agreement” means the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1988, as amended from time to time and any successor agreement.
(5) “Pensioner” shall mean any person who is receiving a pension, other than (I) a deferred vested pension based on less than 20 years of credited service, or (ii) a pension based in whole or in part on years of service credited under the terms of Article II G of the 1974 Pension Plan, or any corresponding paragraph of any successor thereto, under the 1974 Pension Plan (or any successor thereto), whose last classified signatory employment was with the Employer, subject to the provisions of Article II B of this Plan.
Article II B. (1) of the Employer Benefit Plan provides:
Article II – Eligibility
The persons eligible to receive the health benefits pursuant to Article III are as follows:
Health benefits and life insurance under Article III hereof shall be provided to Pensioners as follows:
(1) Any Pensioner who is not again employed in classified signatory employment subsequent to
(a) such Pensioner’s initial date of retirement under the 1974 Pension Plan, and
(b) February 1, 1988, shall be eligible for coverage as a Pensioner under, and subject to all other provisions of this Plan. Notwithstanding (i) and (ii) of the definition of Pensioner in Article I (5) of this Plan, any such Pensioner who was eligible for benefits under the 1974 Benefit Plan as a Pensioner on December 5, 1977, shall be eligible for such benefits subject to all other provisions of this Plan.
Article XX Section (c)(3)(i) of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement requires a signatory Employer to establish and maintain an Employer Benefit Plan to provide health and other non-pension benefits for Pensioners whose last signatory classified employment was with such Employer. Article II B. of the Employer Benefit Plan establishes that an individual who is receiving a pension under the 1974 Pension Plan, other than a deferred vested pension based on less than 20 years of credited service or a pension based in whole or in part on years of service credited under Article II G. of the 1974 Plan, is eligible for health benefits coverage under the Employer Benefit Plan.
Funds’ records show that the Complainant’s last signatory classified employment was with the Respondent on March 23, 1990. The Trustees have previously determined in RODs 81-652 and 84-443 (copies enclosed herein) that, under the terms of the Employer Benefit Plan, an Employer’s obligation to provide benefits for its Pensioners is not contingent upon any minimum length of service requirements. Inasmuch as the Complainant was awarded a UMWA 1974 Pension Plan Age 55 retirement pension effective May 1, 1990, the Complainant meets the eligibility requirements of Article II B. (1) and is entitled to health benefits coverage from his last signatory Employer, the Respondent.
Opinion of the Trustees
The Respondent is responsible for providing health benefits coverage for the Complainant as a Pensioner, effective May 1, 1990, consistent with the terms of the Employer Benefit Plan.