Air Canada says retirees permit pension changes

Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:24pm EDT

* Pension funding changes not blocked by retirees, managers

* Less than 1 pct of those affected move to block changes

* Way cleared to seek gov't approval of pension changes

TORONTO, July 19 (Reuters) - Air Canada (ACa.TO) said on Sunday a plan to limit payments toward its C$2.9 billion ($2.6 billion) pension deficit have not been opposed by retirees and managers, clearing the way for the airline to request government approval.

Hobbled by a sharp drop in global travel and tough domestic competition, Air Canada has said it needs a pension funding moratorium to help avert a second bankruptcy filing in six years.

The pension funding changes, which have been ratified by all five of the airline's Canadian-based unions, call for a 21-month moratorium on past service contributions and fixed payments from 2011 to 2013.

The airline was also required to consult its retirees, managers and administrative, technical and support employees. The groups were given until Saturday to object to the changes, with the understanding that as long as no more than one-third expressed opposition to the proposal, it would be considered accepted.

Air Canada said as of the deadline, less than one per cent of affected individuals had expressed disagreement.

In addition to the pension funding changes, the airline has said it also need labor peace and C$600 million in financing to meet its short-term needs. Its unions have already agreed to 21-month contracts that freeze their wages.

"The agreements remain subject to the adoption by the Federal Government of an Order-in-Council amending Air Canada's pension funding rules and Air Canada entering into agreements to raise a minimum of C$600 million in new financing," the airline said in a statement. ($1=$1.11 Canadian (Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson, with additional reporting by Susan Taylor in Ottawa; Editing Bernard Orr)

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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