The Sheet Metal Workers’ National Pension Fund (NPF) recently amended and restated its Trust Agreement. In addition to incorporating previous amendments, the plan adopted three new amendments to its withdrawal liability provisions that contractors should know about.
First, the NPF streamlined its procedure for when a contractor requests a review of its withdrawal liability assessment. Now, when a contractor has either questioned its assessment, challenges the calculation, or provides additional information related to the assessment of liability, the Fund Office has absolute responsibility for reviewing matters “pertaining to Withdrawal Liability including but not limited to initial and revised assessments, requests for review and any assertion or disposition of claims.” The NPF sees this as streamlining the process in that is does not require a wait on trustee action.
The second amendment consisted of adopting the procedures for the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Under the law, disputes over withdrawal liability are subject to arbitration. In adopting the AAA procedures, the NPF is consistent with the procedures used in other types of disputes for which the trust agreement calls for arbitration.
The third and final amendment specifically allows the arbitrator in a withdrawal liability matter to award the NPF its reasonable attorneys’ fees and arbitration costs if the employer has initiated the arbitration in bad faith or engages in dilatory, harassing, or other improper conduct during the course of the arbitration.
These above stated amendments went into effect on April 23, 2019. The NPF’s withdrawal liability provisions are contained in Appendix A of the trust document. The newly restated trust agreement is available on the NPF’s webpage.