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Canadian and American employers plan to average pay increases of 3.9% in 2009 despite a weakening economy, according to a survey.

Preliminary results from the 35th Annual WorldatWork Salary Budget Survey show that after seeing salary budget increases sink to historic lows in 2003 and 2004 and climb slowly from 2005 through 2008, this year’s study confirms that the growth in salary budgets is holding steady, indicating labor markets are stable.

The survey also finds that 91% of employees can expect to receive an increase in base pay.

Employers are paying for performance as well: high performers can expect raises over 5%, while below-average performers can expect 2% or less. Very few employers are planning zero raises

In-depth data will be released in early August and will include results for North American regions, Canadian provinces, major industries, data by organization size as well as major metropolitan areas in the United States.

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GM Cuts Post-Retiree Healthcare Benefits

General Motors, which is facing a weak U.S. economy and record-high gasoline prices, is eliminating healthcare coverage for U.S. salaried retirees over 65, effective Jan. 1, 2009 in order to cut costs.

Affected retirees and surviving spouses will receive a pension increase from GM’s overfunded U.S. salaried plan to help offset costs of Medicare and supplemental coverage. And there will be no new base compensation increases for American and Canadian salaried employees for the remainder of 2008 and 2009.

Beyond these moves, which also impact GM executives, additional actions are being taken. There will be no annual discretionary cash bonuses for the company’s executive group in 2008. With the elimination of the annual cash bonus, combined with GM’s long-term incentives which are driven by GM stock price performance to assure alignment with its stockholders, GM’s executive group will have a significant reduction in their cash compensation opportunity for 2008. For the company’s top executive officers, it represents a reduction in their cash compensation opportunity of 75% to 84%.

These benefit changes, salaried headcount reductions and other related savings will result in an estimated reduction in cash costs of more than 20%, or US$1.5 billion in 2009.

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Infrastructure Indexes Launched

Measuring performance of infrastructure investments versus a benchmark is easier now that Dow Jones Indexes and Brookfield Asset Management have launched the Dow Jones Brookfield Infrastructure Indexes.

The global index series designed to serve as benchmarks of companies that are owners and operators of key infrastructure assets such as toll roads, pipelines and ports. The new index family includes a composite index and sub-indexes for four regions and eight sectors.

The Dow Jones Brookfield Infrastructure Indexes includes benchmark indexes to gauge active infrastructure portfolios as well as blue-chip indexes that can underlie financial products.

“As the global infrastructure industry—which is the backbone for the provision of essential products and services for the world economy—continues to expand in response to increasing population and demographic shifts, there is a greater demand among investment professionals for high-quality benchmarks that accurately reflect this burgeoning asset class,” says Michael A. Petronella, president of Dow Jones Indexes. “The Dow Jones Brookfield Infrastructure Indexes can be used by institutional investors as measurement tools to gauge the performance of their infrastructure portfolios.”

The new index series includes the Dow Jones Brookfield Global Infrastructure Index, Dow Jones Brookfield Global Composite Index, which includes master limited partnerships (MLPs); regional sub-indexes for the Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Global ex U.S.; eight global sector sub-indexes, and the Dow Jones Brookfield Infrastructure MLP Index, which tracks MLPs only.

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Group Life with Funeral Planning Resources

ING Employee Benefits and Everest Funeral have implemented a new marketing agreement to offer a comprehensive employee life insurance option that eases the emotional hardships arising from end-of-life issues.

With the combined group life solution, employees, their families and most importantly, the parents of both the employee and their spouse, receive the vital information and planning resources they need to make the most informed decisions about funeral arrangements.

The service can be included with an employer’s new or existing group life contract and is determined at the employer-level. Employees then choose from the level of service that is made available to them.

“ING is committed to making all facets of life better and easier. When a loved one passes away, employees are under immense grief and stress,” says Ian Gilreath, president of ING Employee Benefits. “But with group life benefits from ING, and Everest acting as the consumer’s advocate, employees and their families can more easily handle the difficult—and very expensive—task of planning a funeral.”

Everest offers funeral planning and concierge services, but does not sell funeral goods or services, and does not receive commissions from funeral homes or other service providers.

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Pernod Renews Buck Contract

Buck Consultants has been selected by Pernod Ricard USA to continue providing consulting services for Pernod’s pension and post-retirement medical plans.

Under the terms of the five-year contract, Buck Consultants will deliver actuarial and consulting services for Pernod’s defined benefit pension plan, two supplemental executive retirement plans and its post-retirement medical plan.

These plans have more than US$250 million in assets and cover 4,500 active and retired participants.

“We value the outstanding service and solutions that are always provided by the Buck team,” says Manny Bernardo, director of employee benefits for Pernod Ricard USA. “We look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship.”

Buck has been providing consulting services to Pernod for more than 40 years.

Pernod Ricard USA is a premium spirits and wine company and the largest subsidiary of Paris, France-based Pernod Ricard SA.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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