The Carter administration wants to have the U.S. government workers pension fund pay multimillion-dollar benefits to Panamanian employes when control of the Canal Zone shifts to Panama later this year.
Under the proposal, Panamanians and other foreign nationals now employed by the Panama Canal Company or related agencies would have two options: They could retire on full U.S. pensions with as little as 18 years of service. Or they could take payments equal to twice the amount they have contributed into the U.S. civil service retirement fund and transfer them to a new retirement program of the Panamanian government. In either case, the U.S. civil service retirement system -- funded on a 50-50 basis by federal employes and the federal government -- will pay the bill.
The early retirement options that will be offered to Panamanians and other foreign nationals will raise some eyebrows among federal and postal employes. They will not be offered them.
Under the plan, workers whose jobs are abolished as a result of the treaty will be able to retire as early as age 48 if they have 18 years of service or at any age with 20 years' service. Those who decide to retire voluntarily would have the same 48-18 benefit, or could retire at any age with 23 year's service.
Those early-out options will add to the unfunded liability of the federalpostal pension plan, because workers will be retiring earlier and drawing benefits longer than anticipated. The liability of the fund (in the red mainly because the government didn't make past contributions) now stands at around $125 billion.
Panamanian workers who do not meet the age and service requirements for the generous early-out retirements who transfer over to Panamanian government service can take a double-dose of pension equity with them. Rather than being given the lump sum settlement equal to 7 percent of salary, which they paid into the U.S. fund each year, they would be given at least 14 percent to transfer to the Panamanian social security system.
U.S. federal workers who quit government befoer retirement age, or who transfer equity to another private pension system are allowed only what they paid in -- usually 7 percent of salary for each year of service.
Backers of the proposal, which will be taken up in the House Merchant Marine Committee (with jurisdiction over some Canal operations) argue that it is the price Uncle Sam must pay for returning the canal to that Central American country. They say it is necessary to provide "equitable" and humane treatment to long-service Panamanians who put in long service with the Canal Zone Panama Canal Company while it was under U.S. control.
Opponents argue that a fair payout, or buyoff, should be made. But they do not feel that federal workers should have to foot the bill from their pension fund. (The unfunded liability of the fund is misleading, since it now takes in much more -- in government and employe contributions -- than it pays out.)
Federal union leaders and friends in Congress who are familiar with the plan argue that the early retirement benefits for Panamanians and the double pension payout should be financed by the treasury from general funds, not from the federal employe pension fund.
This could result in a major jurisdictional fight between the Merchant Marine Committee and the Post Office-Civil Service Committee. The letter, though its Employee Benefits subcommittee, has been fighting the erosion of the federal civil service pension fund through early-retirement options and liberalizations, which add to the future deficit of the giant pension plan.
Federal and Military Retirees: They will be getting a 3.9 percent (befoer taxes) cost of living raise effective March 1. The extra money will be reflected in checks received in April. Retirees will get another COL adjustment this September. The Carter administration has abandoned plans to eliminate one of the twice yearly inflation-catchup increases for retirees and their survivors.
Reginald Jones has been named assistant director for the Office of Personnel Management's natural resources, energy and science section. George J. McQuoid, another veteran of the former Civil Service Commission, is in overall command of the Agency Relations directorate.
Rockville Clerk-Typist: Commerce (NOAA) has a temporary opening at the Grade 3 through 5 level. Call 443-8425.
Federal Executive Institute: The Alumni Association has given its top service award to Rep. Edward J. Derwinski (R-Ill.). Derwinski is ranking minority member of the Post Office-Civil Service Committee and one of its sharpest members. Derwinski helped President Carter get his civil servicereform legislation, giving more time and enthusiam to the cause than the most of the Democrats Carter had counted on.