Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Judge agrees to amended agreement.

The following news release was published on the NRPC web site at 3:30-pm today.

It means the pension will continue until September 30th, and Health and Welfare benefits in Canada will continue until the end of 2010 as well as payments to LTD people. Terminated people will also be paid $3000 severance as an advance on their claims.

After that we are on our own.

I don't know if the agreement will have any bearing on US health benefits.

The indications from the annoncement are that if the Canadian BIA is amended in favor of retirees, the judge would not allow Nortel to switch into the BIA process and would have to liquidate under the CCAA. That's my reading. What a crock!

In other words, if Canada alters the BIA to help pensioners get priority to claim what is rightfully theirs, we Nortel retirees will not be allowed to excercise that right. It also means that all other companies going bankruptcy would probably try to liquidate under the CCAA instead of the BIA and deny pensioners the right to a higher priority.

It's a good old boys Canadian Club!

Media Release: For release at 3.00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NRPC relieved that new Settlement Agreement is approved; will continue to fight for changes to bankruptcy laws.

OTTAWA: The NRPC is relieved that the presiding judge in Nortel's bankruptcy proceedings today approved the amended Settlement Agreement between Nortel and representatives of its retirees, terminated and long-term disabled employees signed on March 29, 2010. The agreement postpones income cutbacks and benefit losses until later in the year for Nortel's former workers and provides a payment of $3000 to terminated employees who received no severance.

Last week Judge Geoffrey Morawetz ruled that he would not approve the previous version of the Settlement Agreement because of a clause that he deemed to be unfair to other creditors. The controversial clause would have preserved the right of Nortel's former workers to claim preferred status if Canada's bankruptcy laws were to be amended prior to Nortel's final liquidation. It has now been removed.

"We are not giving up the fight to change Canada's unjust bankruptcy laws!" said Don Sproule, National Chair of NRPC. He added: "The judge's earlier ruling indicates that since Nortel and other creditors will object, he would not allow the bankruptcy to move to liquidation under an amended Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Our campaign at the federal level must now aim for retroactive legislative changes which could be applied to the current situation".

NRPC will also continue its efforts to persuade the Ontario government to establish a Pension Agency, in line with the recommendations of the 2008 Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions. The Agency would take over and run abandoned pension plans instead of using the remaining assets to buy annuities for retirees. The Nortel pension fund is significantly underfinanced and winding-up the plan to purchase annuities would further reduce pensioners' incomes.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Judge to review amended agreement tomorrow

This is the latest message posted on the NRPC website. So tomorrow the judge will review the amended agreement and issue a decision.
I hope he doesn't take 3 weeks to decide like last time.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Our legal representatives met with Judge Morawetz today, March 30th, to advise the judge that they had signed a new settlement agreement without the H2 clause to which he had objected. A motion to approve the new deal will be heard by the judge on March 31st. See the Koskie Minsky LLP website for further detail:
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 30 March 2010 )

Amended Canadian Agreement

The following was posted on the Koskie Minsky web site this afternoon:

The Court-appointed Representatives for the Former Employees, the Court-appointed Representative for the employees of Nortel on long term disability, and Representative Counsel Koskie Minsky LLP, executed an Amended and Restated Settlement Agreement, which will ensure the continuation of health, dental, life and income benefits through 2010.

A motion for court approval of the Amended and Restated Settlement Agreement has been scheduled for March 31, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at 393 University Ave.

Court materials will be posted on the Monitor's website at as they become available.

My Note:

This whole process isn't democratic at all.

Why is a small group making decisions for this large group of pensioners and LTD
people without first getting their input?

If this was a union I expect that any agreement, or proposed position on
negotiation, would be put to a vote amongst the full membership before going
ahead with it. This may be called representation, but it is does not necessarily
reflect the majority opinion of the full group at large.

I think the people leading the NRPC are trying to do their best, but early on,
we should have required some rules of representation and decision making by the
NRPC, as our representative council, in order to make sure that they truly
reflect the majority opinion.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a clear process for that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Two days to go before the NTC agreement ends.

Here we are March 29th with 2 days to go before Nortel Canada has to decide if it will wind up the pension plan immediately.

The judge has rejected the settlement hammered out with Nortel and after re reading his decision and also the settlement agreement, I have to concur with him that there is clearly uncertainty in the agreement.

Our representatives and lawyers agreed to include clauses that would waive our rights to claim priority in current or future bankruptcy proceedings, and then also included a clause H2 that would have allowed us to have priority if the Canadian government amended the BIA giving pensioners priority. So the judge rightly said that this would constitute a form of claw back and as such it created uncertainty for the other creditors and hence he dismissed the motion.

Here's some of the background detail on the proposed settlement.

Clause H1 precludes any CCAA plan of arrangement which includes priority for Pension or HWT claimants.

Clause E1 basically says that Pension claims shall not have any priority in any manner over the claims of ordinary unsecured creditors. It goes on to say that Pension claimants waive rights to re-file or re-claim in these proceeding or any subsequent receivership or bankruptcy proceedings.

Clause H2 basically says that notwithstanding anything else in the agreement, in the event of a bankruptcy of Nortel, if there is an amendment to any provision of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, no party is precluded from arguing the appicability of such amendment.

So as I read it, if we don't have H2 in there we have given up our right to claim priority in the CCAA, and we also have given up our right to claim priority in BIA proceedings even if the BIA law is changed.

So what do we do?

(a) Give up the H2 clause and have our payments until Sept for retirees and Dec for LTD and then never have the opportunity to get priority if the law is changed?

Or (b)let the settlement die and hope that the Canadian government gets its act together and amends the BIA to give us priority? (Of course Nortel may never enter BIA and may submit a restructure under CCAA, so even in that case we may be screwed.)

With option A we have a bit more time to allow a smoother transition to the pension administrator. However it puts the LTD people in a terrible position once the money runs out in Jan 2011.

Option B means a lot of scrambling right away as Nortel will probably move to wind everything up asap, and we will all see huge impacts immediately, especially the LTD.

Another alternative might be to rewrite clauses E1 and H1 in the agreement, but that would probably take too long, and would mean a whole new set of negotiations which I am sure Nortel and the other creditors would not support.

So we are between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

NRPC appearance at the Canadian Finance Committee

Don Sproule and Bernrd Neuschwander of the NRPC along with Diane Urquhart appeared before the Canadian Parliamentary Finance Committee on March 25th to put forward the case for amending the BIA to provide preferred status for LTD people, pensioners, and severed employees of companies like Nortel who have gone into bankruptcy proceedings.

You can watch the full proceedings by following the link in the NRPC website at:

The proceedings are in English and French and include representation from Nortel as well as other people from other companies in bankruptcy and individuals affected by bankruptcies.

Diane Urquhart was extremely convincing in her arguments regarding the need to make this amendment and especially for the LTD people who will fall into poverty unless some drastic action is taken immediately. The case put forward by Don, Bernard and Diane certainly got the attention of the committee which includes representatives from all parties, and there appears to be a sympathetic ear.

Like all governments however, changes like this take a long time and although the outcome from this session seems to be positive, I think it will require a lot more public support and encouragement to make it happen.

I think we should all extend our thanks to Don and Bernard and especially Diane for taking up this cause and being well prepared and eloquent in stating our case.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rejected claims against Nortel US

I have heard from a few people about receiving packets from Epiq indicating lists of claims that had been rejected by Nortel. I was told by one of my contacts that when he called Epiq and Nortel there had been a duplication of his claim when they entered it into the database. It looked like someone had entered the information twice.

As a result the duplicate was rejected but the original claim was maintained and is still active. These were claims that had been calculated by Segal for those members of the US NRPC who had paid the money to have their claims verified by Segal, so it would have been extremely discouraging if the claim had really been rejected.

If you have received this package and are wondering about it I stongly suggest you call Epiq at 866 897 6435 to understand what this may mean to you. If your claim was calculated by Segal it is probably correct and properly registered if you sent in the forms before the bar date. The number I have for Segal is the one sent with their calculation for me and it is: 202 833 6445. Their web site is and there is also an email address

Friday, March 26, 2010

Judge rejects the Canadian Settlement Agreement

Justice Morawetz of the Superior Court of Justice of Canada has rejected the Settlement Agreement that was presented to him on March 3rd through 5th. His report can be found on a link provided on the Koskie Minsky site.

The NRPC committee is reviewing the details and working with Koskie Minsky to understand the implications and next steps and will update the NRPC website as more information is available.

So what took the judge so long to make up his mind? The hearing finished on March 5th and he knew that the funding arrangement with Nortel would end on March 31st. So why did he wait until Friday the 26th to issue his findings? That only leaves 3 days next week to work out any adjustment if possible. I smell a rat.

Is his statement, the judge found that clause H2 in the agreement introduced too much uncertainty for the bondholders and other creditors. Really! What about the uncertainty of the pensioners? Now we don't know what is going to happen. Is the pension going to wind up next week with us all getting a reduction right away? Or what? How about that uncertainty?

It seems that this was orchestrated so that the pressure will be on the NRPC and the CAW to cave in and remove the H2 clause from the agreement. That's the clause which gives us the right to take advantage of any changes in the Canadian law regarding BIA which might give pensioners preferred status over other creditors. So by removing that clause are we giving up that right? Maybe its a moot point anyway since the Canadian government seems to move just as slowly as the US in making changes happen.

In any event, there probably isn't enough time for the NRPC and Koskie Minksy and all the other parties to renegotiate this. Thanks a lot Judge M.!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Maybe my last Nortel Canada pension check?

My Nortel Canada pension check stub arrived in the mail yesterday as per normal. I checked my bank account and the deposit had been made as usual and the good news is that the Canadian exchange rate makes the Loonie almost equal to the US dollar.

The bad news is that I still don't know if this will be my last pension check from Nortel Canada. The judge still hasn't made any decision on the Canadian Settlement agreement which, if approved, would extend pension benefits payments by Nortel until September 2010.

If the judge rules against the agreement, then I think Nortel will be winding up the pension plan immediately and none of us know for certain what that means to our pensions. At best it will continue on being paid out of the trust fund by an administrator, but reduced by a percentage that could by 30% or worse. Eventually the pension will be further reduced as it is annuitized and we could see another big reduction as a result.

It's amazing that no one is letting us know what is going on. I check the NRPC, Koskie Minsky, Ernst & Young, Epiq, and Nortel websites looking for a glimmer of information and there is only silence. It's almost like everyone went on vacation and forgot about the agreement, and the fact that thousands of people are waiting to find out the impact on them.

Especially the people on LTD. We retirees have it made compared to them. Many of them are in their 40s and completely unable to work, and also unable to draw their pension from the trust fund. They will end up with little or no income as a result of Nortel's bungling of the health and Welfare trust fund, and the apathy of the Canadian government. In fact the settlement was devised with poison pill contents so that the LTD employees would not have any rights to sue Nortel over it's bungling and bumbling on the HWT fund.

This episode is one of shame for Nortel, for the lawyers who delighted in screwing the weak and disabled with this settlement, and for the government of Canada. How can we make the Canadian public realize the terrible, shabby treatment that the LTD people and the pensioners are receiving? I know the Canadian people are better than this, so why are they indifferent and unmoved by our predicament?

Where's the outrage?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nortel medical coverage

So far Nortel has continued to support the medical coverage for employees and retirees in the USA. There is no doubt that they will be stopping that coverage some time this year. When they do, there will be a huge impact on us since we depend heavily on that coverage for ourselves and our families.

Because I am retired and over 65, I am lucky to have Medicare provide my basic medical support. I joined Medicare in 2007 and decided to keep the traditional Medicare since I still had the Cigna coverage from Nortel. When that goes I may look at the Medicare Advantage or definitely a supplement to part A and part B. I am not sure yet what to do about the Medicare drug plans.

My doctor accepts Medicare but I am not sure if he takes the Advantage plans. Since I want to stay with him I will decide based on the type of insurance he is willing to accept.

One thing I discovered when I joined Medicare is that you have to make sure that your Doctor is "assigned" by Medicare otherwise you end up paying the doctor directly and then claiming it back from Medicare. Doctors who are "assigned" submit your claims directly to Medicare and then bill you after they pay. They are also subject to the standard costs assigned by Medicare which means you pay less than the doctor may try to charge you up front if he or she is not "assigned".

I am not sure yet what to do about my wife's coverage. She has some years to go yet before she is Medicare eligible, so when the Nortel plan is wound up we will have to find a plan to support her until she can join Medicare.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Annual Assessment of Pension Trust Funds' Solvency

Given our experience with the underfunded Nortel Pension Trust Fund it is clear that the laws in place today are inadequate to ensure companies meet their obligations when it comes to defined benefit pensions, and disability payments.

I think that the laws in the USA, Canada, the UK and other progressive countries should be changed to make sure that companies check the status of their trust funds every year and take the necessary steps to ensure that they are properly funded.

In fact I would even go further and suggest that companies report on the status of pension trust funds and disability trust funds each quarter using change analyses on a quarter by quarter basis. Then they should carry out a fully fledged assessment at the end of the year and include it in their annual report.

Surely stockholders, bondholders, banks, and employees would welcome such information. Given the large impact on a company's ability to survive, any outstanding payments to trust funds should be made public just as assets, debts, and revenue are made clear each quarter.

If Nortel had been required to do this in 2007 and 2008 our situation in Canada would be much improved and the PBGC in the US, and the PPF in the UK would not be looking for as much from Nortel's assets.

It would also mean that companies would have to be extremely careful in making pension and other benefit promises. They need to be held accountable and today's weak laws let them get away with reneging on their obligations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Canada's neglect of disabled and retired citizens

I had a nice break from blogging for St. Paddy's day and enjoyed my pint of Guinness and Potato Cakes at Ri Ra in mid town Atlanta. I was hoping that the luck of the Irish would bring some decision on the Canadian Settlement, so that we could at least see where we stand. But, alas, no such luck. There hasn't been any news from Koskie Minsky, the NRPC, or Ernst & Young so I think the judge is taking some extra time to ruminate.(If that's what judges do.)

Mr Harper, on the other hand, on his YouTube discourse, was happy to report that private Canadian pensions are sound, and better off than in any other country. I guess he doesn't have to worry about that, given the rich pension he will get when he leaves public office.

I think he has missed the point in terms of defined pensions. I realize that the business community is moving away from defined pensions and shifting the onus from the enterprise to the individual. That may be fine for all the young people who still have time and a chance to build a retirement fund for themselves (maybe), but for the people like me who are already retired, our defined pensions are part of the compensation we were promised by our employers. This government is turning a blind eye to the situation, and with a wink and a nod to private business, they are letting companies offload the pension burden without meeting their obligations.

It's even worse for disabled people. Who would have thought that Canada would let a company like Nortel provide minimal support to the ongoing welfare of their disabled employees? The fact that no laws exist to protect disabled employees from falling into poverty when their employer goes bankrupt verges on criminal. When will Canada waken up to this vile treatment of their most vulnerable citizens?

How come legalizing marijuana is more important to the people sending questions to PM Harper than ensuring disabled people and pensioners are paid what is owed to them?Having spent two decades in Canada, I thought I understood the national sentiment and expected a lot more from the people and the government, but these last 15 months have shifted my opinion a lot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Harper's YouTube performance lacklustre

Canadian PM Harper went on YouTube yesterday for a half hour to respond to submitted questions. The Nortel pensioners were hoping there would be some response to questions on pension reform and bankruptcy. Unfortunately all his answers were the usual political rhetoric. Here's the story as reported in the Vancouver Sun:

Harper's YouTube experiment uninspiring
Prime Minister responds to pre-selected questions submitted by website users, but that didn't prevent activist groups from having their say By Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver SunMarch 17, 2010

A YouTube experiment, intended by the Prime Minister's Office to enhance Stephen Harper's image as modern and accessible, became a platform for disgruntled voters to frustrations on Tuesday.

In the half-hour YouTube town hall, pre-recorded at Rideau Gate in Ottawa, the prime minister responded to about a dozen questions that website viewers themselves had submitted and had a hand in choosing.

A relaxed Harper said little that was surprising in response to videotaped and text queries that ranged from the ethics of the seal hunt to the torture of Afghan detainees.

Harper defended his government's positions by pointing to his belief that Canadians greed with the Conservative policies and noting repeatedly that Canada is in a better position economically than other countries.

Google had advertised the initiative last week, signalling that the PM would be only the second national leader, after U.S. President Barack Obama, "to engage with the public in this manner ... For the first time Canadians will have a chance to ask the PM questions." For the PMO, the venture reflected a long-standing strategy whereby Harper, known for tightly controlling his communications, wherever possible has bypassed the National Press Gallery in Ottawa in favour of connecting with Canadians either directly or through local or ethnic media. Many of the questions submitted by the YouTube participants -- totalling 1,800 -- were irreverent, even rude, revealing another side of Canadians, so often described as polite.

"Hypothetically, if you wanted to remove someone like yourself from power, how would you go about it?" teased a post from Hamilton, Ont.

From Vancouver: "Underneath the blank grey eyes, political machinations, expensive suit and hairspray, do you have a semblance of a soul?"

"Do you think it's time for Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis to find another line of work?" asked an Ontarian, referring to the Status of Women minister who had an emotional meltdown last month at Charlottetown's airport and her husband, a former MP who benefited from a plea bargain in his conviction last week on a charge of careless driving.

Of course those questions never made it into the Harper interview, conducted by Google rep Patrick Pichette.

Other questions were thoughtful, referring to the melting of ice in the Canadian North and asking why Conservatives haven't taken the hint and done more on climate change. Or asking why Canada continues exporting cancer-causing asbestos. Another questioner asked why the Harper government was spending so much time on crime legislation when statistics show crime has been dropping in the last 30 years.

Several interest groups tried to hijack the experiment, filling the YouTube site with queries challenging Canada's pot laws; questioning the Harper government's slowness to legislate changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to ensure that, in Nortel-type situations, laid-off employees acquire pension protection; and slamming bilingualism.

"When will a referendum be held by all provinces except Quebec to once and for all vote on whether to keep Quebec in Canada?" asked a Manitoba resident.

Calling himself a "Canadian sovereigntist," Harper said he would not want to see another Quebec referendum.

He defended the seal hunt as "one of the most humane cases of animal husbandry in the world."

On pensions, the PM noted that most plans are regulated provincially and that private pensions in Canada "are generally very, very strong, certainly in comparison with those of other countries."

Defending the Conservative focus on crime, Harper said: "I don't want to say crime is out of control in this country, but we do know that there have been some very worrying growth areas, not just in Canada, but around the world."

On decriminalizing marijuana, Harper was adamantly against, saying: "We should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we somehow stopped trying to deal with it, it would suddenly turn into a nice, wholesome industry."

While the event may have helped the PM reach some younger voters, it hardly came across as any sort of new-age event.

Rather the interview seemed a typically tightly managed affair in which Harper emerged unscathed.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still no news from the Canadian Judge

It is now into the second week after the hearing on the Canadian settlement agreement and there is no news from the judge. I am not sure what that means. He indicated that he would consider all sides and give his decision as soon as possible. I know it is a very complex situation and there is opposition from the bondholders and US creditor's committee to the agreement. I wonder if there are some side bar discussions going on? I am not sure that is reasonable if it is happening. Everyone should be represented not just some of the parties.

It would be nice if Koskie Minsky or the NRPC provided some interim status if they have any information from the court. Everyone is waiting to hear what that decision is.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Questions on you tube for PM Harper

The voting is closed on YOU TUBE on the questions to be asked of Canadian PM Harper on Tuesday. I found a number that have been listed that concern the Nortel Pension and the Canadian Insolvency Act. I have copied the questions along with the votes they received for thumbs up or thumbs down.

The results are disappointing. I expected to see a lot more people voting on the pension issue. Instead there were at least 70 other questions deemed more important by Canadian voters on You Tube. The vast majority of the popular questions were regarding the legalization of marijuana. Obviously the general public in Canada has no idea what is being done to pensioners as a result of the inadequate laws in Canada.

The Prime Minister will answer a selection of the top-voted questions in an exclusive YouTube interview on Tuesday March 16, 2010 at 7 p.m. ET.

Here are the pension related questions I saw:

"Are you committed to and planning on fast-tracking action that will result in Justice in Bankruptcy by fixing the CCAA and BIA NOW to save thousands of pensioners from bankrupt companies like Nortel from poverty?"
buffiesue1, belleville votes: 171 up 63 down.

""When are you going to fix the BIA and address abandoned Nortel Pensioners?""
Brian Walton, - votes: 85 up, 13 down

close video"When are you going to fix the BIA and address abandoned Nortel Pensioners?" regie, Ottawa - votes: 111 up, 48 down

"Why haven't you shown a caring and swift response to the plight of Nortel pensioners who have been attempting to change the BIA so that all Canadian citizens' pensions in the private sector would be protected when bankruptcy occurs?"
Sherry, - votes: 86 up, 9 down.

"I am outraged that Pensioners can be treated as they have by Nortel. Immediate amendments are required to the BIA to give preferred status to the claims of Pensioners and Disabled of companies to ensure this immoral situation does not continue." Jerry, Ottawa - votes: 14 up, 5 down.

"COUNT THAT YOU DO TO RECOVER THE AMOUNTS DUE TO RETIREMENT OF THE FOLLOWING NORTEL NORTEL BANKRUPTCY? imagine the reaction if we cut PENSIONS OF STAFF BY 30% TO 40%??" ex-Nortel, st-Lambert - votes: 19 up, 5 down

"Mr. Prime Minister, Will your government make it a priority to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act as soon as possible so that Nortel Pensioners, Disabled and Terminated employees are protected when this formerly great company is liquidated?"
pzeeman, Ottawa - votes:179 up, 95 down

Please explain why the government is so reluctant on changing the BIA so that pensioners from bankrupt companies have the same rights as other creditors. Specifically Nortel at this time."
nagerry, Montreal,QC - votes: 35 up, 8 down

"You state "Canada's retirement income system is the strongest in the world" I disagree! Will you amend the antiquated BIA immediately to give Canadian employee and pension claims preferred status so my Nortel pension will not be reduced by 30-40%?" A Nortel pensioner, Calgary - votes: 147 up, 56 down

"Please explain, how is it that Nortel pensioners to the south(USA) and overseas (UK) are protected by their governments re bankruptcy and we in Canada are NOT ??? The BIA needs to be changed now."
nagerry, Montreal,QC - votes: 41 up 6 down

"Are you committed to fast-tracking the ammending of the CCAA and BIA now, so severed employees, Long-term disability and pensioners can become super-seeded creditors and be put on top of creditors lists, so the working class can get full payment?" Chris, Ottawa - votes: 36 up, 4 down

"When will the Federal government of Canada, which has authority over the Bankruptcy Act, make pension plans and pensioners secured creditors in the case of a Company's Bankruptcy?" DH, - votes: 166 up, 56 ddown

Friday, March 12, 2010

Canada ratifies the UN Convention on Persons with disabilities.

No news yet on the Canadian Settlement ruling from the Court.

However I was forwarded this report on Canada ratifying the UN convention of Persons with disabilities. Surely this will give the LTD Nortel people a chance to sue Nortel if it continues on as a company. I hope so...

Yesterday, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This means that the Canadian government is now required to promote, protect and ensure the full rights of those with disabilities. See CBC Power and Politics coverage of this historic event for Canadians with disabilities.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, shook hands Thursday after ratification of a convention on disabilities. (Bebeto Matthews/The Associated Press)

Canada has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the eve of the Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

"Canada is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and enabling their full participation in society," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday after delivering the ratified document to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City as activist Traci Walters looked on, beaming, from her wheelchair.

"Ratification of this convention underscores the government of Canada's strong commitment to this goal," Cannon said.

"We are officially turning on its head the notion that people with disabilities are helpless, in need of care and in need of pity," Walters said later.

"The government of Canada's ratification today of the convention is an historic event for Canadians with disabilities," said Marie White, national chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. "It signals the end of an era where people with disabilities were seen as objects of charity. Ratification of the convention makes real our goal of recognition as full and equal citizens of Canada."

The convention will require provincial governments to update several laws, including making schools inclusive to all students. That means disabled students can no longer be diverted to special schools as some still are, said Bendina Miller of the Canadian Association of Community Living.

She cited the experience of one young girl with an intellectual disability whose parents tried to enroll her in Grade One: "Their fears were proved when they walked in to the school office and the secretary took one look at them and said, 'We don't do Down's [Syndrome] here.'"

That student and others like her must now be integrated into a neighbourhood school.

However, the convention is about much more than adding wheelchair ramps. It shifts the focus from institutionalizing those with disabilities to housing them in the community and allowing disabled people to challenge in Canadian courts, laws or policies that contravene the international law.

However, the signing did not go ahead without a glitch. The location of the news conference had to be hastily changed when organizers realized the original room was not wheelchair accessible.

Persons with disabilities are routinely denied these basic rights:

Receiving an education
Moving around freely
Living independently in the community
Getting jobs, even when well qualified
Accessing information
Obtaining proper health care
Exercising political rights, such as voting
Making their own decisions"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Tube video. We need more MPs like this speaking out.

Michelle Simson, Liberal member for Scarborough West in the Canadian parliament speaking in the house of commons on behalf of Nortel pensioners and disabled workers. A video that was made a few months ago but doesn't seem to have had much visibility. We need a lot more publicity on our situation and I would hope that we could get more MPs to speak up for pensioners as Ms Simson did. I also hope this video would get more air time. Thank you Ms Simson for taking up our cause.

Questions for Canadian PM's You Tube discussion.

Prime Minister Harper will give an official reply in the House of Commons to the Speech from the Throne on YouTube's TalkCanada today, Thursday, March 11th, at 10:45AM.

Submit your questions for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his response to the Speech from the Throne and the recent budget.

The Prime Minister will answer a selection of your top-voted questions in an exclusive YouTube interview next Tuesday March 16, 2010 at 7 p.m. ET.

Submissions and voting will end on Sunday March 14 at 1 pm ET so don't forget to submit your questions for the Prime Minister.

Go to Talk Canada on You Tube at:

There are a couple of questions on Harper's approach to pensions and the bankruptcy act. You can add your vote to the questions by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down. I guess the more thumbs up they receive will determine which questions are posed to Mr Harper.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tax implicartions of US claims against Nortel

In an earlier post I published a copy of a letter I had sent to the tax advocate of the IRS regarding tax on payments against claims we may have against Nortel. That is if we receive any payments from Nortel.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the tax advocate yesterday to advise me that they had received my letter but felt that the questions were too technical for them to deal with directly and were going to forward the request on to the pension department. They thought that it would take about 2 to 3 weeks before any sort of preliminary response could be made. There was also the possibility that I might be charged a fee to have them analyse the questions and make a decision. I will of course contest that since I think this should be a public service.

However I was somewhat heartened that my request had not disappeared into the IRS bureaucracy.

I will publish any comments or answers I receive from them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Still no news from the Canadian Judge

There doesn't appear to be a ruling yet on the Canadian Settlement heard last week in the Canadian court.

I will keep checking various sources and publish the results as soon as I find out.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Canadian judgement on settlement case due in a week.

The following story ran today in the Ottawa Citizen:

Ruling on Nortel settlement due in a week By Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen March 6, 2010

An Ontario judge will rule in about a week on a controversial, $57-million settlement with current and former Nortel employees, after hearing three days of submissions from scores of lawyers on the deal.

On Friday, lawyers for U.S. creditors and Canadian bondholders, argued against the deal between the insolvent company and its retired and disabled workers.

In particular, they opposed a clause in the agreement that would allow pensioners and other workers to gain priority treatment if the Canadian government changes the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

"I'm asking for the removal of a tumour, your honour," said Alex MacFarlane, lawyer for the U.S. creditors. "A malignant tumour." The $57-million settlement will fund long-term disability benefits and provide health, life, dental and pension benefits until Dec. 31.

Without it, those payments would expire at the end of March.

The controversial clause, known as H2, reflects a slim hope by current and former Nortel workers that any potential changes to Canadian bankruptcy law will come in time to help them. Otherwise, their claim will join the queue with a long list of unsecured creditors.

The Conservative minority government made vague mention of changes to the bankruptcy act in a one-line remark in Wednesday's throne speech, saying the "government will also explore ways to better protect workers when their employers go bankrupt. " While Nortel lawyer Derrick Tay dismissed the possibility of that legislation impacting the current case, MacFarlane said the clause nevertheless caused concern for his clients.

The company's pension plan is underfunded to the tune of $1.1 billion, court heard.

MacFarlane and lawyers for the Canadian bondholders are asking Justice Morawetz to extract the clause from the settlement and send the two sides back to the bargaining table.

The U.S. creditors and Canadian bondholders objecting to the $57 million settlement account for roughly $6 billion of the $27.9 billion in claims against the one-mighty telecom giant.

Nortel's assets stand at roughly $5 billion.

It is still unclear whether they constitute a large enough proportion of creditors to scuttle the deal.

Under Canadian bankruptcy law, a company's reorganization needs approval from both a majority of creditors in terms of numbers and dollars.

Morawetz, who is overseeing the Canadian reorganization of has also heard strong objections from a dissident group of LTD recipients. The group, object to another provision in the deal preventing them from suing over missing funds in a trust account designed to fund their disability payments.

The health and welfare trust account is missing between $37 million and $100 million, depending on estimates.

The missing funds mean the company's 409 disabled former workers will have to live on a fraction of what they were promised.

"We are not unhappy, your honour, we are scared to death," said Peter Burns, 54, a father of three who has fought both paralysis and the effects of a stroke since having a tumor removed in 2004.

Nortel's Tay acknowledged the pain the company's insolvency will cause.

"As much as we would like to help people, we are bound by the law and we are bound by practical commercial realities," he told court.

Meanwhile, Nortel lawyers in Delaware court won permission to pay a new round of bonuses worth as much as $92.4 million for certain employees over the next two years, including $4.5 million set aside for three executives.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, March 5, 2010

Further Info on the Canadian Court Case

From the Ottawa Citizen:\ /story.html

A vocal group of Nortel employees objecting to a sunset deal with the insolvent company lost their first battle in Ontario court Wednesday.

Superior Court Justice Geoffrey Morawetz took only 33 minutes to reject a bid by the roughly 30 long-term disability recipients to halt proceedings for 45 days while they prepared an objection.

A lawyer for the dissenters argued the group had had only five business days to digest and respond to the controversial deal, which would force employees to abandon any potential legal claims against Nortel directors and executives for alleged mismanagement of pension and health and welfare funds.

Morawetz agreed with lawyers representing the company and the majority of pensioners, who argued uncertainty caused by the delay would cause more damage.

"I would suggest, your honour, that the good of the many should not be sacrificed because of the discontent of the few," said Nortel lawyer Derrick Tay, one of more than 22 robed lawyers who appeared in court on the matter Wednesday. If the arrangement is turned down, pension and disability benefits would be cut off March 31.

"That would precipitate a crisis," said Mark Zigler, of Koskie Minsky, the firm representing Nortel's 12,000 former employees affected by the bankruptcy.

"On that basis alone, this matter will continue," Justice Morawetz ruled.

The deal to extend health, pension and long-term care benefits has prompted anger among the dissident group of 30, who object to that provision which will prevent them from suing over what Ernst & Young says is a $37-million shortfall in the fund.

Anger over that clause spilled into the hallway outside the downtown Toronto courtroom where arguments were heard Wednesday.

Several dissidents accosted their own lawyer, Zigler, and court-appointed representative Sue Kennedy.

"They kept us in the dark for too long," said Josée Marin, one of the angry LTD recipients.

Marin, a former lab technologist at Nortel, has been on long-term disability since 2002. She suffers from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition, and scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disorder.

If the sunset deal goes through, Marin and other LTD recipients will have to make do with less than one-third of their current income, according to estimates by financial analyst Diane Urquhart.

However, Sue Kennedy, the court-appointed representative of LTD employees says the offer is the best deal her side could get. She echoed a message from lawyers that the disgruntled faction has to face the fact that the once-mighty company will soon cease to exist.

"The alternative is to tell them 'OK, March 31 your health and income benefits are gone'," she said.

"They would not be able to do it. That would severely affect people's health. This gives us time to come to grips with the end of Nortel as we knew it. It gives us time to plan. It gives us time to lobby the government for the help we're going to need to get through this."

Court arguments on the deal continue today.

Courts in Toronto and Wilmington, Delaware Wednesday approved the sale of a carrier voice division to Genband Inc., a Texas company. Nortel will get $182 million U.S.

Canadian Judge says Nortel case may be heading for stalemate.

The following is a story from Bloomberg news. It includes the terrible plight of Nortel's disabled ex-employees who may see their benefits cut completely at the end of the year, plunging them into poverty. Surely the Canadian system isn't so heartless as this!

Bloomberg News.
Nortel Plan May Be Heading for Stalemate, Judge Says

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Nortel Networks Corp.'s plan to distribute sales proceeds to creditors may be heading for a stalemate with former employees and bondholders both capable of vetoing the proposal being developed, a judge said.

Under Canada's bankruptcy law, a company's reorganization needs approval from both a majority of creditors in numerical terms and dollar terms. Former workers make up a majority of creditors numerically, while bondholders have the most debt.

"You may very well have a stalemate coming out of this," Ontario Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Morawetz, who is overseeing the Canadian restructuring, said at a hearing today in Toronto.

Nortel, once North America's biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, has been auctioning its assets since filing for bankruptcy protection in Canada and the U.S. in January 2009. The company has raised about $3 billion from the sales, Nortel has said in court papers.

Some of Nortel's former and disabled workers today urged the judge to reject a proposal under which Nortel agreed to set aside C$57 million ($55 million) to pay benefits to the end of the year. After that, the workers will be officially fired and their benefits terminated, leaving them to live on government assistance, according to a group representing them.

Barbara Arnelien, whose husband Stan worked for Nortel for 39 years and is confined to a wheelchair as a result of a stroke, said the couple never dreamed they would lose company benefits that include a pension, dental and coverage for drugs and Stan's C$5,000 wheelchair.

'We Are Sad'

"We are not unhappy," she told the judge. "We are sad."

The couple, who had already spent C$100 on gas to make the three-hour drive twice to Toronto from Meaford, Ontario, for the hearing has already been forced to cut back on expenses, including a newspaper subscription, haircuts, dining out and going to movies, Arnelien said.

Without the judge's approval of the deal, Nortel will stop benefit payments at the end of this month, creating a hardship for the 20,000 affected people, said Derrick Tay, a company lawyer. The settlement also includes severance and termination payments of as much as C$3,000 each to fired Nortel workers.

The settlement has the support of the company, creditors' groups, and Koskie Minsky LLP, the court-appointed law firm representing former, retired and disabled workers, who say it's fair and gives the former employees time to prepare for the loss of benefits.

'What Future Holds'

Joel Rochon, a lawyer representing 37 disabled former workers opposed to the settlement, told Morawetz he can order Nortel to keep paying the benefits from money the company has already set aside. The judge reserved that option in an earlier ruling, Rochon said.

The former workers shouldn't have to give up their right to sue the company, its directors or a trustee overseeing a fund Nortel created to pay health benefits to get an extra nine months of payments, as the settlement requires, Rochon said. In exchange for the extra benefits, most of Nortel's disabled employees will end up living below the poverty line, a group representing the former workers said today.

"This is what their future holds after Dec. 31," the group, Rights for Nortel Disabled Employees, said in an e-mailed statement.

The disabled workers will get about C$16,000 a year from a federal pension plan, without benefits, rather than 50 percent of their pay, which averaged about C$70,000 a year, with benefits, Rochon said.

The case is In the matter of a plan of compromise or arrangement of Nortel Networks Corp., M37770, Court of Appeal for Ontario (Toronto).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Toronto at jschneider

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NRPC Ad to raise awareness to the Nortel pensioners' plight.

Looks like the Canadian settlement deal is going ahead.

Yesterday there were hearings in the US and Canada on a number of items. One was a group of people opposing the settlement deal worked out between Nortel and the NRPC. It appears that the deal will probably go ahead since the judge rejected the opposition to the proposal by a group of Nortel LTD employees.

On Wednesday, Judge Morawetz, the Canadian Judge handling the Nortel case, rejected a request from a group of about 30 former Nortel workers to delay consideration of an agreement to settle outstanding health, pension and severance payments owed to employees.

Under the deal, Nortel agreed to create a $57-million fund to pay long-term disability benefits and provide health, life, dental and pension benefits to the end of the year.

Without the deal, Nortel would stop payments at the end of the month, (one of the lawyers)Mr. Tay said. The fund also includes severance and termination payments, to a maximum of $3,000, to fired Nortel workers.

Joel Rochon, lawyer for the group of former workers on long-term disability who oppose the deal, urged the judge to delay consideration of the approval of the agreement for 45 days, saying the workers haven't had enough time to analyze the proposal.

Read more:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Letter to Ottawa Citizen

Since I have written many times to the PM Canada, and haven't had any effect on him, the following is a letter I sent to the Ottawa Citizen. They may or may not publish it. If they do I hope it helps raise Canadian awareness to the inequities we retirees are facing.

Here is the body of the letter:

As Canada basks in the glory of the Olympics, and its image is broadcast worldwide as a friendly competitive nation with good people and amazing scenery, I wonder what those other nations would think if they knew about Canada’s poor treatment of seniors.

The Canadian pension plan falls short in comparison to other countries including the USA where the income taxes are half that of Canada, but the US Social Security payments are four times as much as the CPP.

In addition Canada’s antiquated pension laws do not provide any insurance for retirees who were promised a defined benefit only to find their dream evaporate when their companies enter Canadian bankruptcy protection. At least thirteen other major countries have thought this through, and have enacted laws that provide insurance of those defined benefits, but not Canada. Instead, Canada is on the list with countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, U.A.E, Malaysia, & Latvia who ignore pensioners’ rights in bankruptcy cases.

Even in that situation there would be some hope if pensioners could obtain priority status against the estate of the bankrupt company, to take back the funds missing from their pension trust fund before other creditors such as insured junk bond holders get their hands on the assets. Thirty four civilized countries do that, but not in Canada eh!

In fact Canada’s laws are so pro-business and anti-retiree that they let companies get away with neglecting to adequately fund the pension trusts, and only need to check it every 3 years. In good times maybe that’s OK but in bad economic times that is disastrous.

As a Nortel retiree I know this only too well. We are facing at least a 30% reduction in our pensions, maybe more, and we can’t seem to get anyone in the government to listen or help us. What happened to Canada that they could let this jewel of a company expire without raising a hand to help, and now are turning aside as many thousands of Nortel pensioners and ex-employees suffer at the hands of poor laws and inept government?

Olympic glory fades away, but the shameful treatment of Nortel and other pensioners will be on Canada’s conscience forever.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

US court blocks the UK Pension claim.

The following story ran in the Montreal Gazette indicating that the US court had in fact blocked the UK poension claim against Nortel:\ lted/2627174/story.html

The following is an excerpt:

The U.S. court has blocked a bid by British pension authorities to start action on a$3.2-billion U.S. claim against Nortel Networks.

The Delaware bankruptcy court issued an order giving Nortel the power to ignore a bid by the British Pensions Regulator seeking payment of a big unfunded liability against the insolvent company's global assets.

Delaware court Judge Kevin Gross said British regulators have to play by U.S. bankruptcy rules because they accepted the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts with
official claims last September.

As a result, he said the British authorities also have to honour a U.S. court ruling, called a stay, which blocks lawsuits and other claims while Nortel operates under bankruptcy protection.

Gross said in a decision that the British plans for a separate claims process in Britain "are deemed void and of no effect."

He said if the British pension authorities proceed with hearings to determine the amount of the British claim against Nortel "participation will be in violation of the automatic stay and subject to sanctions."

The Ontario Superior Court, which heard the same arguments Thursday, is expected to make a similar ruling but no decision is yet available.

The U.S. court heard the arguments Friday and issued the decision late Friday. The two courts are working in tandem on the Nortel insolvency proceedings.

After Nortel entered bankruptcy protection in January 2009, British authorities started examine the underfunded Nortel plan in the process of taking control.

In the claim submitted to the U.S. courts, they estimated the liability at $2.7 billion.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stay order approved in US court against UK Pension

The Epic website has a docket # 2580 which apparently approved the stay on the UK pension claim against Nortel US. The document is a very short summary on minutes of a meeting held on 2/26/2010 on the topic. There was video participation from the UK and the minutes state that Item #10 order signed.

A confusing set of minutes to say the least. However item number 10 on the related docket #2516 was:

"Debtors’ Motion For Entry Of An Order Enforcing The Automatic Stay Against Certain Claimants With Respect To The U.K. Pension Proceedings (D.I. 2441, Filed 2/18/10)."

A similar situation exists in Canada but I haven't seen anything reported on the court's position on that yet.