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May 21, 2014

Legislative Update: Apprentice Training & Multi-employer Pension Reform

US Department of Labor Secretary to visit FTI of the Mid-Atlantic Region

AGMA proudly announces the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez’s tour of the Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) of the Mid-Atlantic Region on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. While at the FTI, DOL Secretary Perez will make brief remarks to the FTI faculty and students; the FTI is the official training provider for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District 21. On June 23, 2011, the FTI received a DOL green jobs training grant (a three year grant) in the amount of $6 million.

The funds were made available through DOL’s Green Jobs Innovation Fund, which awards grants to organizations that help workers receive job training in green industry sectors. DOL awarded only six organizations that will serve participants in 21 states; three were awarded in Pennsylvania.

Multi-employer Pension Reform

The clock is loudly ticking on the multi-employer pension provision of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), which is scheduled to expire this year. In late April, AGMA joined FCA International and the Quality Construction Alliance in their annual legislative fly-in in Washington D.C. to address this important issue with their Members of Congress and their congressional staff. Ultimately, AGMA contractors want to protect their investment, and they want to keep their promises to their workers. For nearly 18 months, the National Coordinating Committee for Multi-employer Plans worked very hard to produce a set of recommendations geared towards strengthening the multi-employer system and helping plans about to become insolvent.

The commission’s report suggested multiple technical tweaks to the PPA that it said would improve plans’ financial stability. Also, the commission recommended that “deeply troubled” plans meeting certain criteria be allowed to suspend benefits and ward off complete insolvency by applying for approval from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Additionally, the report promoted two alternative plan designs: “variable annuity” plans, which reduce contributing employers’ exposure to withdrawal liability, and “target benefit” plans that eliminate such liability.

Without question, these recommendations would be a way to help preserve the existing system by giving the additional tools needed by many of the plans that want to shore up their current plans and make sure that those benefits are out there for their employees for many years to come. No doubt, AGMA’s legislative wheels are in motion as the construction industry heads into the busy summer and fall seasons. As always, we remain confident and optimistic that we will be successful on these important legislative issues and beyond.

Source: Gray & Oscar LLC