Lawyers consider next step after Nortel deal blocked
Published Monday, March 29, 2010 6:11PM EDT
Lawyers will be in front of a Toronto judge Tuesday to get some direction on what's next for about 20,000 Nortel pensioners, long-term disabled and laid off workers after a judge rejected a deal to settle their claims last week.
Lawyer Joel Rochon, who represents long-term disability workers who opposed the original deal said he expects the judge to give lawyers time to discuss a new agreement.
"We will make submissions to the judge regarding benefits continuing and I expect him to give direction to make sure there is no abrupt end to any payments," Rochon said.
The proposed deal would have extended health and other benefits until the end of this year for 400 disabled workers.
It would have also continued support for the pensions of about 12,000 people until the end of September and it would have given up to $3,000 to another 7,000 former workers with claims such as severance.
A judge ruled Friday that one clause in the agreement would give pensioners, long-term disability and laid off workers preferred status if the federal government changed the bankruptcy law.
Don Sproule head of the Nortel Retirees and Former Employees group told CTV Ottawa that he was disappointed by the ruling.
"We had hoped the judge could find a way to work around the deal. Now, our pension plans and benefits are in jeopardy," he said.
It is now possible that Nortel could go ahead with its original plan, which was to cancel support of the pension fund and all benefits as of this Wednesday.
Nortel issued a brief statement on the situation on Monday. However, it did not deal directly with the looming Wednesday deadline.
"We are discussing the decision with rep counsel and hope to get to a solution shortly," the statement said.
According to a lawyer at Rochon-Genova -- the Toronto law firm representing long-term disabled workers who fought to block this deal -- lawyers are trying to figure out their next course of action.
"There are a lot of moving parts right now and we are trying to talk to lawyers for the other parties to see what might be done. We hope to have a better idea later today," said lawyer Sakie Tambakos.
Groups representing all the workers agreed to the deal on behalf of those affected, but critics said the deal gave up too much, especially the right to sue former Nortel executives.
Ottawa resident Lawrence Clooney, a worker on long-term disability, fought to block the deal because it gave away his right to sue.
"In a roundabout way we won. The deal is stopped even though the judge did not support our reasons," Clooney told CTV Ottawa.
Without benefits, he's not sure how he'll move forward. He said he feels ending benefits will cause "an accelerated race to death" for many workers currently on long-term disability.
The judge did accept all provisions in the deal, except the one that could give the group preferred standing as a creditor.