Bills suspend workers’ pension payments

The Buffalo Bills have suspended pension plan payments to all
employees — including coaches — during the NFL lockout
and potentially the rest of the year, in addition to
across-the-board paycuts that had been previously announced.

Chief executive officer Russ Brandon confirmed in an e-mail to
The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Bills had stopped paying
into the 401(k) plan for the duration of the lockout and ”will
decide at a later date whether to reinstate them for 2011 based on
our financial performance.” Brandon said all employees had been
notified early on that the plan was being amended so that all team
contributions would be discretionary for this year.

USA Today first reported Tuesday that payments have been
stopped for the Bills coaching staff.

Brandon, however, said the payments had been suspended for all
employees. The Bills had already announced in March that while no
layoffs were planned, all employees would take a paycut during a
work stoppage as part of a series of cuts that focused on what the
team called “shared sacrifice.”

The news is the latest development in a series of cutbacks being
made across the NFL during a two-month-old lockout that has already
wiped out a series of voluntary minicamps and has the potential of
disrupting the start of the regular season.

Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association,
said that to his knowledge, the Bills are the first NFL franchise
to suspend pension payments for its coaches. In 2009, Buffalo was
one of a handful of NFL teams to opt out of the league’s pension
plan to create its own after owners voted to make the existing
supplemental retirement plan non-mandatory for the clubs.

After previously praising the Bills for establishing the best
pension of any of the teams that had opted out of the NFL plan,
Kennan criticized the Bills for suspending payments.

”It isn’t right. It isn’t fun. It’s not that good of a deal to
have to go through,” Kennan told the AP in a phone interview.
”Anybody’s who’s taken a 25-percent paycut, and management just
told them they’re not paying any of your benefits until we see how
we’re doing financially, that’s a shock.”

Of his association’s members, Kennan said assistant coaches will
be the most affected by the team’s decision.

”The head coaches and coordinators probably have a little
wiggle room with their money, but maybe not because some of those
coordinators have two or three houses they’re paying mortgages
on,” said Kennan, a former assistant coach.

”They tell coaches, ‘We’re really important,’ and ‘We’re
management.’ They talk about ‘We’ a lot,” Kennan said. ”And then
the minute there’s a little money crunch, they cut salaries.”