In 1983, the Iron Workers set out to establish standardized reciprocal agreements that would be acceptable throughout the U.S. and throughout Canada. Did the Iron Workers achieve their goal? We came close. However, special issues arise if you work outside the U.S., including Canada.
So, this stuff maybe interesting, but what do I really need to know?
1. The Reciprocal Agreement
You need to know that with the exception of a few outside local unions noted below, a few local unions, most are signatory to the Iron Workers International Health and Welfare Reciprocal Agreement and the Iron Workers International Reciprocal Pension Agreement have been signed by all of the remaining Iron Worker local unions, see the Directory listing.
In addition to the Pension and Health Reciprocal Agreements, some local unions have defined contribution or annuity plans which are signatory to the Iron Workers International Reciprocal Annuity Agreement. This is a "Money-Follows-the-Man" agreement where all of the contributions are sent back to the home local.
There are two parts to these agreements Part A and Part B. As a boomer, you need to know that every pension and health & welfare trust fund has signed Part A and a substantial number of local unions have agreed to both Parts A & B. To determine the signatory parts in advance check out the latest Directory Listing by clicking on the attached highlighted document (Local Unions Signatory to the Iron Workers International Reciprocal Agreements) or check out the last online Directory issue of The Ironworker magazine that is contained on this website.
Under the pension agreement, reciprocity is based on a pro-rata pension at your retirement. This means that when you retire, your pension trust administrator will need to coordinate your pension pieces with all of the other pension trust funds in whose jurisdictions you worked enough time to earn a minimum amount of credit under each pension trust fund. For example, if the pension plan grants ¼ of a credit for X hours of contribution, you will be entitled to that amount if you retire on a pro-rata pension.
Under the pension agreement, Part A reciprocity is referred to as the pro-rata pension. The pro-rata pension means that cooperating pension funds must utilize your service with each pension fund in whose jurisdiction you worked in a lifetime as though all of the pension credit was earned under the jurisdiction of each of the cooperating pension funds. Then each cooperating pension fund determines the amount of benefit attributable to their pension fund. The parts are then added together and paid to the ironworker. Today a fund must participate as a cooperating pension fund if you earn the least amount of credit offered under the fund’s pension plan. So if you earn a credit under the plan for 250 hours then the fund is obligated to pay you a pro-rated benefit in the future, assuming you earn enough credits to become vested.
For example, if you think the job will last long enough to earn a minimum amount of pension credit and the rate of accrual (that is the amount per pension credit earned) is significantly greater than your home fund, you might not want Part B for pension contributions because the value of the benefit is greater. Some of the big east coast pension plans also pay you at retirement based on the rate of accrual when you retire, not on the rate of accrual when you earn the pension credit.
Under the health & welfare agreement, reciprocity is based on point-of-claim reciprocity. This is a modified “Money-Follows-the-Man” program because at the time you or your family has a claim, you no longer have home fund eligibility for coverage, and you do not have eligibility for coverage with the away fund either. Under these circumstances, you must tell your home local that you are or have boomed out. If transferring the money and hours during the home fund local’s eligibility period will make you eligible for benefits under the home local’s plan either on the basis of the money or the hours worked, regardless of the money, then the contributions and hours earned during the eligibility period are transferred back to the home local. You must tell your home fund that you have hours in an away fund jurisdiction when you submit your claim.
For example, if you think the job will last long enough to earn health and welfare eligibility in the away fund and the away fund’s benefits are better than your home fund, you might not want Part B reciprocity for health and welfare contributions because either way you and your dependents will be covered for benefits, if you had eligibility for coverage prior to booming out.
Once the hours are transferred, the clock on eligibility restarts in the away fund again. The key to this reciprocity is the date of the claim.
Under all agreements where the board of trustees of a trust fund have agreed to Part B, the agreement requires a "Money-Follows-the-Man" transfer of contributions and hours from the away fund back to your home fund. The crediting of such hours and contributions in your home fund is subject to the board of trustee policies and the requirements of ERISA. You need to ask your pension administrator how hours and contributions are credited in your home fund.
2. So now that I have determined whether a local union is signatory to both Parts A & B or Part A alone, what’s next and why is that important to me?
*When you clear-in at the local union office, you need to know am I a “key” man with a contractor who has a “key” man agreement with the International Association or am I in town because there is a need for additional ironworkers in the local jurisdiction.
If you are a “key” man and your employer has a “key” man agreement with the International Association, you just need to clear–in and go to work. Your employer’s agreement with the International supersedes the local union’s collective bargaining agreement, and it requires that the employer pay you the better of the your home local’s rates or the rates of the local union in which you are working. So a “key” man needs to check the rates at the local union when he clears–in to make sure the right amount is sent directly to his home fund by his employer.
*If you clear–in because the local union needs ironworkers, and if the local union has signed both Parts A & B, you need to decide whether you want the Part B reciprocity ("Money-Follows-the-Man") or Part A reciprocity.
If the local union and its pension and health & welfare trust funds are signatory to Part A alone you have no decision to make.
You must make this decision for the pension agreement as well as the health and welfare agreement. You must also make this decision prior to going to work or within the first 30 days. If do not sign an authorization card for each reciprocal agreement for which you want the contributions to go to your home fund before you go to work, you will automatically receive Part A reciprocity. If Part B reciprocity is “Money-Follows-the-Man” for both you still need to sign the authorization card for each trust fund. You do not have to sign a Part B authorization for each trust fund, you can sign up for Part B pension agreement only or health & welfare agreement only.
If there is an annuity agreement in place in the local jurisdiction in which you are working, it is up to you to sign an authorization card within 30 days of your going to work so that hours and contributions are sent back to your defined contribution trust fund.
Once again, it is up to you to sign an authorization card for each agreement to transfer contributions made on your behalf to your home fund.
3. Special Pro-Rata Pension Circumstances
The Directory Listing contains those local unions that participate in the Iron Workers Reciprocal Agreements together with the method of reciprocity. However, even though Local Unions 15, 424 and 625 appear not to participate in those agreements the following should be considered:
* Local Union No. 15, Hartford, Connecticut & Local Union No. 424 withdrew their participation in the 1983 Pension and Health & Welfare Agreements, January 1, 2008 – Pension Agreement and September 30, 2008 – Health & Welfare Agreement. However, if you earned credits under the Pension Trust Fund between 1983 and 2008 you may be entitled to a pro-rata pension.
* Local Union No. 625 in Honolulu Hawaii still only participates under the old “pro-rata” reciprocal agreement. Under the old pro-rata agreement, you must work for at least two years in order to qualify for a pro-rata pension under that agreement.
4. What is your responsibility?
Ultimately, it is up to the individual ironworker to learn as much as he can about the benefits to which he is entitled. The reciprocal agreements are just as important as knowing your jurisdictional rights, your craft and your safety procedures. To that end, the International has made them available to you. By going to the tab entitled Plan Administrators, you will find copies of all of those documents for your inspection and review.
In addition, we have also provided a listing of the participating ironworker’s pension funds together with their administrator’s addresses and phone numbers.
As you work under these agreements, you should keep a careful record of the local union in which you worked together with the period of time you worked in their jurisdiction. Lastly, you should, to the extent possible, keep your pay stubs when working for contributing employers in these away fund jurisdictions. If you think you need help with anything you should contact your home fund administrator.