Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teamster solidarity with Dutch dock workers helps win back their pensions

Transamerica protest in 2008
A global insurance giant, Aegon, agreed to give back Dutch dockworkers their pension money after a long hard fight that involved the Teamsters and the longshoremen.

The dispute goes back to 2007, when the Dutch Dockworkers Union pension fund was transformed into an insurance company that was bought by Aegon. Aegon decided to steal the dockworkers' money.

The Teamsters were able to pressure Aegon into doing the right thing because many Teamster pension and benefit funds do business with an Aegon subsidiary -- Transamerica, a holding company for investment firms and life insurance companies.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa wrote a stinging letter in 2008 to Aegon's lawyers:
As a result of Aegon's deplorable mismanagement, the dockworkers' hard-earned pension funds are serving as backing for Aegon's own insurance obligations. 
The Teamsters Union condemns Aegon's violation of workers' pension rights and retirement security and stands in solidarity with Dutch dockworkers and the Union, FNV Bondgenoten, in the continuing struggle for justice with Aegon.
Hoffa noted that many Teamsters funds do business with Transamerica, and he pledged to tell all the funds about Aegon's actions. "I urge you to advise Aegon to halt its misappropriation of the funds relegated for the pension benefits of the dockworkers. Such resolution would align Aegon with the values of many of its clients," he wrote.

When nothing happened, Teamsters International Vice President Rome Aloise hosted representatives of the Dutch Dockworkers Union in San Francisco and joined them in a protest outside the Transamerica building. Aloise also sent a letter to the CEO of Aegon.

Aegon finally reached an agreement with the dockworkers, which was announced yesterday.  RTT News reported they would ask a Dutch court to unfreeze the dockworkers' assets. Aegon agreed to pay 80 million euros to the foundation representing the dockworkers and offer more favorable pension terms. Aegon also agreed to contribute up to 20 million euros to the pension fund.

Niek Stam, head of the dockworkers' union, said it was a long and hard fight, but he was deeply grateful to the Teamsters and other unions that pressured Transamerica.
It has been the global character of our campaign that could finally prompt a global insurance giant to settle its conflict about the pension money of dockworkers.
When you fight, you can win.