Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Pensions! This is the news you need to know in the fight for a secure retirement. We have gathered the top stories about pensions and retirement security from the previous week.

NPPC Highlight

The private sector’s pension landscape is currently making waves in discussions. In our latest blog post, we shed light on IBM’s recent decision to reintroduce a defined-benefit plan to its employees and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) advocating for the reinstatement of pensions, furthering the ongoing conversation about the role pensions could play in private-sector employment.

Bringing Pensions Back

The pension landscape is on the brink of change, marked by IBM’s recent introduction of the Retirement Benefit Account as a replacement for the conventional 401(k) match. This development signifies a shift away from the trajectory set in the 1990s when numerous employers transitioned from defined-benefit pensions to 401(k) plans. IBM’s strategy, featuring a fixed return, introduces an element of stability in contrast to the market-dependent nature of traditional 401(k)s. While this move has the potential to influence other companies to reconsider their pension structures, the broader resurgence of traditional pensions remains uncertain. For a deeper dive into this evolving landscape, explore the insights from MarketWatch, and be sure to check out our blog for our unique perspective on this development.

Alaska grapples with a critical dilemma as shortages in public employee positions wreak havoc on essential services.

 This week, The Fairbanks North Star Borough Metropolitan Area Commuter System (MACS) temporarily restored Saturday service hours for the Red and Green lines, suspended since July 2022 due to a systemic driver shortage. These restored services, extending to Dec. 9, Dec. 16, and Dec. 23, aim to accommodate the holiday season, offering a timely resumption for community events and extra work hours.

Simultaneously, the Anchorage Assembly is wrestling with snowplowing challenges, addressing concerns, and proposing improvements in the city’s emergency response. Discussions expanded beyond recent snow events, touching on broader challenges, including a 70% vacancy rate among state vehicle mechanics. Assembly members suggested various ideas for enhancing the snow plow response, emphasizing a balanced approach in light of changing climate patterns. Anchorage faces the delicate task of ensuring effective snow removal services and responsible government spending amid evolving climate forecasts.

Adding to the state’s crises, the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) faced its own challenges. Responsible for public guardianship, the OPA reversed its decision to decline new cases due to a persistent staff shortage since April. An attempt to offload clients to a private guardian resulted in chaos, leaving vulnerable Alaskans without proper care and benefits. This highlights the broader issue of public worker shortages affecting states across the country, with Alaska being among the worst affected. The state’s decision to close its pension system has contributed to a significant decline in its public workforce, making it increasingly difficult to maintain essential services. Reinstating Alaska’s pension system becomes crucial not only to attract new public employees but also to ensure the state can meet the essential needs of its citizens. 

Pension Victory in Trumbull!

In a unanimous decision, the Trumbull Town Council took a significant step to address police officer retention issues by approving the reinstatement of pensions for the police department. Republican Councilman Carl Massaro, Jr emphasized the impact of recent financial and social challenges on police recruitment and expressed hope that this move would deter officers from leaving shortly after being hired.

Chief Michael Lombardo said, “It’s been one of our biggest losses. We’ve lost people to other departments that offer what we didn’t have.”

The police department had been without pensions since July 1, 2014, when the administration switched to a 401(a) defined contribution plan for newly hired officers. Defined contribution plans lack the guarantee of a specific amount of benefits at retirement, unlike defined benefit plans such as pensions.

The agreement between town officials and the police union follows over a year of discussions, marking a significant and unanimous decision by the town council. Sgt. Brian Federowicz, the police union president, praised the council for prioritizing public safety and expressed optimism about the impact on officer retention.Be sure to check back next Friday for the latest in the fight for a secure retirement! For now, sign up for NPPC News Clips to receive daily pension news from across the country directly to your inbox.