MLA on quest to find out who’s owed money from unclaimed pension fund

Dozens of people who worked for a now-defunct manufacturing plant in Pictou County, N.S., could be owed thousands of dollars each from an unclaimed pension fund.

But there’s a problem with this windfall. No one, except the company that administers the fund, knows who’s eligible — and the company won’t release the list of names. 

“I was willing to drive to Montreal to get that list. I was so anxious to get it,” Pat Dunn, the MLA for Pictou Centre, told CBC’s Information Morning. 

Dunn said following some sleuthing by his staff, his office was recently told by the administrator that about 70 former employees of TrentonWorks are entitled to money that’s been sitting in a fund since 2007.

The industrial plant was founded in Trenton, N.S., in 1872 and had several owners over the years that made things like steel, boats and rail cars. The plant closed in 2007.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for Aon, the Montreal-based company that administers the pension fund, said it’s up to its client, the now-shuttered TrentonWorks, to release the names of who’s eligible.

“As plan administrator, our internal policy is to not share any information on our clients (or plan members),” spokesperson Alexandre Daudelin wrote.

Who is eligible? 

Dunn only found out about the unclaimed pot of money by accident. Two people who had both worked at TrentonWorks came into his office on separate occasions because they were struggling financially.

One of them remembered a pension fund from his time with the company, so staff started digging. Dunn’s constituency assistant called every fund administrator she could find, and finally discovered Aon had a file on TrentonWorks.

“We got their information through to the company and one gentleman received about $13,400 and the other person $9,300,” said Dunn, adding he believes eligible former employees are entitled to about $10,000 each.

That’s a lot of money for these former employees because many of them have retired and their pensions are extremely small. ​​​​– Pat Dunn, MLA Pictou Centre

Dunn said people need to have worked at the plant between 1988 and 2007, when it was owned by Lavalin and then Greenbrier. The pension fund can only be accessed by people who are 65 and older or who are under 65 but facing financial hardship.

“That’s a lot of money for these former employees because many of them have retired and their pensions are extremely small,” he said. 

Family members of employees who have since died are also eligible, he said. 

800 people have come forward

Dunn said he repeatedly asked Aon for the list of names, and was repeatedly denied. 

“Our office asked the company this question: if you will not give me the names of the employees, who’s going to contact them?” said Dunn. “And their answer was, ‘It’s not our job.'”

So instead, he turned to his community and asked former employees of TrentonWorks to contact him if they believed they were eligible. 

“It just mushroomed through social media and we’ve had about approximately 800 people either through our doors or over the phone in the past seven days,” he said. 

Could be more than 70 names

Dunn said some of his relatives worked at TrentonWorks, and he’s made it his mission to get to the bottom of the mystery of who’s owed money.

He’s now collected information from hundreds of former employees, and he plans to send it to Aon next week.

But he doesn’t expect an answer soon.

“It’ll probably be February before we hear anything from them because we continue to tell them, it’s such a simple matter. If you just send those 70 names, I will do the leg work, track them down and get the information for you. But they won’t send it,” he said.

Dunn said about 1,200 people worked at TrentonWorks between 1988 and 2007, and he believes even more than the 70 people could be owed money.

“I wonder that every night before I go to bed,” he said. “Could it be possible that there might be more names?”

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