This page addresses the following topics, which can help you succeed in this role.
Quick links below:
- How a Multiemployer Pension Fund Works
- Information the IAM National Pension Fund Needs in Order to Assist You
- How the IAM National Pension Fund Can Help Negotiate the Plan
- Withdrawal Liability
- Company Plan Mergers
- Standard Contract Language Issues
- Affiliated Groups
- You've Negotiated the Plan—Now What?
The IAM National Pension Fund is a multiemployer fund, managed by a joint labor-management Board of Trustees. Union members are able to participate in multiemployer funds through the collective bargaining process. In a multiemployer plan, numerous companies contribute to the plan on their employees' behalf. Because the costs are spread out and risks are pooled, multiemployer plans can provide a competitive benefit for the same amount of money when compared to a single employer or defined contribution (e.g. 401(k)) plan.
The National Pension Fund is a conservatively managed multiemployer plan. It has a broad industry and geographic base, so no single industry downturn or localized economic slump can seriously weaken the Fund’s solvency. By contrast, the health of a single-employer plan depends on the company's fiscal health and investment management practices.
If the group is currently covered by a company defined benefit pension plan, you will need to provide the following information:
- Summary Plan Description and/or Plan Document and all amendments
- Form 5500 for the last three plan years with all attachments, including the Schedule B
- Most recent Annual Funding Notice
- Most recent Zone Notice and/or Rehabilitation Plan, if applicable
- Low, medium and highest employee wages if the benefit is based on a percentage of compensation
- The date the company plan started. Be sure to advise the Fund Office of all name(s) and effective date(s) of any predecessor companies and predecessor pension plans to the current plan. The National Pension Fund may recognize service under a predecessor plan for our 5-year vesting requirement and towards eligibility for our early unreduced benefits (any age with 30 years of vesting or credited service or at age 62 with 20 years of vesting or credited service).
If the company currently offers a defined contribution plan (like a 401(k) plan) to its IAM employees, forward the following information to the Education and Employer Services Department at the Fund Office address:
- Does the company make an automatic contribution to the defined contribution plan? If so, how much?
- Does the company match the employees' contributions to the defined contribution plan? If yes, how much?
- Can employees defer their own money into the defined contribution plan and at what percent?
- Low, medium and highest employees wages.
- The date the defined contribution plan started. Be sure to advise the Fund Office of the name(s) and effective date(s) of all predecessor companies and predecessor pension plans to the current plan. The National Pension Fund may recognize service under a predecessor plan for our 5-year vesting requirement towards eligibility for our early unreduced benefits (any age with 30 years of vesting or credited service or at age 62 with 20 years of vesting or credited service).
If the group has 10,000 or more employees we will need census data to determine the applicable benefit level. The census data is typically provided by the employer and can be provided in an electronic format. The format is outlined in the table below.
|Employee Census Data and File Format|
Social Security Number
Date of Birth: Formatted MM/DD/YYYY
Date of Hire: Formatted MM/DD/YYYY
Sex (M or F)
Years of Vesting Service with another Pension Plan, if any
The IAM National Pension Fund staff is here to help you negotiate the plan. Contact your IAM Pension Coordinator to request Fund Office assistance.
We can attend meetings with your bargaining committee, membership and employer. We are also able to participate in negotiating sessions to help the bargaining parties negotiate the National Pension Plan Standard Contract Language. You may also contact the Fund's Education and Employer Services Department at any time for assistance, preferably at least three to six months in advance of the expiration of a group's collective bargaining agreement.
The IAM National Pension Fund maintains information about IAM employers that do not offer the National Pension Fund. If a non-participating employer is in our database, we will send you a letter four months before the expiration of a group's collective bargaining agreement. The letter will remind you about the information needed to begin negotiating the plan and offer our assistance.
We offer a variety of materials, online, in print and video, to help you educate your membership and employers about the value and benefits of joining the plan.
For example, take a look at the plan's pension calculator. This software program models "what if" pension benefit scenarios for both current participants and nonparticipants. You can demonstrate how an increase in the negotiated contribution rate every three years will affect a retirement benefit.
The most frequent objection an employer may use about participating in a multiemployer plan is the potential for withdrawal liability.
What is withdrawal liability? Withdrawal liability is part of a federal law called the "Multi-Employer Pension Plan Amendment Act" (MEPPA) that was introduced in 1984. It is created when a multiemployer pension plan has unfunded vested benefits (i.e., the value of the plan's vested benefits exceeds its assets). It applies to employers who stop contributing to the plan. When this occurs the employer is liable for its share of the employees' unfunded vested benefits. The law requires the withdrawing employer to pay a proportional share of the plan's unfunded vested benefits. Only employers that withdraw are subject to withdrawal liability; the ongoing contributing employers are not subject to withdrawal liability.
Employers who do not withdraw from the National Pension Fund are not subject to withdrawal liability; their participation continues as usual, and they only pay the contributions negotiated in their collective bargaining agreements as specified in the plan's Standard Contract Language.
Employers who do withdraw are subject to withdrawal liability. However, the law provides a "de minimis" rule so that smaller employers or employers with a smaller amount of withdrawal liability are provided with relief in the form of a complete or partial waiver of the amount owed.
Also note, there is a special provision in the National Pension Fund, called the 5-year free look provision, which means that new contributing employers to the National Pension Plan are not subject to withdrawal liability if they stop contributing within five years of their contribution date to the plan.
Often, in order to relieve their administrative burden, a company may be interested in merging its company plan, which covers IAM employees, into the National Pension Plan. In these cases, the IAM National Pension Fund takes over the burden of administering the company plan.
In the event of a plan merger, the employer agrees to give the IAM National Pension Fund the assets needed to fund the company plan liability.
If a company is interested, contact the IAM National Pension Fund's Employer Services Department to request a merger study. You will receive a letter confirming your request. The merger study and possible merger proposal may take several months, and participation in the National Pension Plan should not be made contingent on the results of the merger study. The best approach is to agree to freeze the company plan and bargain new participation in the National Pension Plan while the merger study is being conducted.
All employers that participate in the National Pension Fund must agree to the Standard Contract Language (SCL), which sets forth the basis for contributions. It may either be signed separately or incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement.
There are options that may be negotiated such as 40-hour weekly cap or annual cap, probationary exclusions, exclusions for certain paid time (with the exception of vacation and holiday time), etc. You or the company may not change the SCL without approval. In many cases changes must be presented to the Trustees for approval and there is no guarantee they will be approved.
Some common issues that employers may raise with regard to the SCL are:
- Exclusion of part-time or temporary employees
- Inclusion of language regarding withdrawal from the National Pension Plan in the event the plan enters an endangered or critical status zone of the Pension Protection Act or if the plan has withdrawal liability.
If you encounter problems or have questions about negotiating the SCL, contact the IAM National Pension Fund's Education and Employer Services Department or your IAM Pension Coordinator for assistance.
Other union employees working for the same employer may also participate in the National Pension Fund as long as the IAM participates. This is sometimes desirable to the employer if they are freezing or terminating a company pension plan that covers multiple unions and are interested in a company plan merger.
Non-bargaining unit employees may also participate, but special rules apply. Also, your territory General Vice President must approve their participation.
Contact the IAM National Pension Fund's Education and Employer Services Department for more information about affiliated groups.
Notify the Fund Office and send a copy of the signed Standard Contract Language (SCL) and/or signed collective bargaining agreement as soon as possible to the Education and Employer Services Department. If these documents are not ready, notify the Fund Office and we will pursue them.
The Education and Employer Services Department will send a letter to you and the employer representative outlining additional documents and data necessary to complete participation requirements and issue an acceptance letter, such as:
- Complete collective bargaining agreement and SCL
- Employee census data
- Remittance method preferred by employer and employer's payroll system readiness
- Predecessor vesting service information
It can take several months to get the required documents and data. Once the acceptance letter is issued, a Welcome Letter and Summary Plan Description books are sent to the employees.
Sometimes the employer begins sending in contributions before the acceptance process is complete. In this case, contributions are put in escrow and are released once the acceptance letter is issued and contributions reconciled to the remittance report.