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FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS MORRELL CUTS IN RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS, UFCW REPORTS

 FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS MORRELL CUTS IN RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS,
 UFCW REPORTS
 RAPID CITY, S.D., Jan. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The United Food & Commercial Workers Union issued the following:
 A federal district court judge here issued a union-requested temporary restraining order blocking John Morrell & Co. from implementing cuts in health insurance benefits for an estimated 3,300 retired hourly employees.
 Morrell announced the planned cuts during the Christmas holidays by asking a federal judge here to approve the unilateral cuts or to order the United Food & Commercial Workers Union to agree to the reductions.
 The UFCW sought the restraining order when Morrell refused to delay implementing the cuts pending a hearing. Retirees from plants in South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee and other locations would have been affected by the reductions.
 "Slashing the health benefits of retirees is unconscionable at any time," said UFCW Vice President Phillip L. Immesote, director of the union's Manufacturing, Food Processing and Packinghouse Division, "but it is especially outrageous as a New Year's greeting to those retired workers who can least afford it."
 "Morrell has absolutely no legal right to make unilateral changes in retiree health benefits," Immesote continued. "The company's blatant attempt to blackjack retirees into authorizing deductions for premium payments from their pension checks under threat of losing their health benefits entirely is particularly repugnant."
 "There is no competitive justification for Morrell's actions," Immesote added, "since companies in the meatpacking industry historically have paid the full costs of retiree health insurance." He noted that the UFCW has successfully blocked other companies from making unilateral changes in retiree health benefits.
 Morrell's attempted cuts included: deduction of premium payments from pension checks; requiring pensioners and their dependents to pay for prescription drugs; and higher co-payments and deductibles for hospital and medical bills.
 "Rising health costs are a national problem that is not going to be solved by squeezing more money out of pensioners," Immesote concluded. "If Morrell wants to make a positive contribution to solving the health costs problem, it should join with those employers and unions which are sponsoring comprehensive health care reform instead of putting lumps of coal in the Christmas stockings of its retirees."
 -0- 1/2/92
 /CONTACT: Al Zack of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, 202-466-1533/ CO: Morrell & Co.; United Food & Commercial Workers Union ST: South Dakota IN: SU:


TW -- DC015 -- 6215 01/02/92 14:29 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 2, 1992
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