Savannah River Site retiree Larry Heinrich said he'd be getting about $20,000 to $25,000 more per year if his retirement pension from the Site's DuPont days would've stayed on course with the cost of living.
Heinrich is one of many SRS retirees who feel they have not been getting a fair deal with their pension plan.
Heinrich said DuPont has not raised its pension rate since he retired in 1989 – which means he has been raking in the same amount of money per year for 25 years.
“What I'm doing is trying to live on a salary that was in place 25 years ago,” Heinrich said. “Essentially, the DuPont retirees are living on a little less than half of what we were making back when we retired.”
Heinrich said the trickle-down effect has affected his ability to enjoy his retirement. Since the recession hit several years back, Heinrich and his wife have opted to give up several luxuries including vacation homes and timeshares to keep their home life from suffering.
“Are we eating beans and living in a hub? No, obviously not. But we've done a lot of things to cut back,” he explained. “The buying power of the pension has gone down and that hurts. It's something that you have to take into account.”
After hearing Heinrich's story, the Aiken Standard reached out to DuPont to get its side of the story. Tara Condon-Tullier, a DuPont spokesperson, said the company empathizes with the impact inflation has on fixed annual payments which is why DuPont regularly evaluates the appropriateness of a pension adjustment.
“We complete this evaluation in the context of our comprehensive retiree benefits package, including pension, the company's contributions to the savings plan, and retiree medical, dental and life insurance coverages,” she said. “Currently, the DuPont package compares favorably against the packages provided by other large companies and the marketplace.”
While DuPont maintains that its pension package is comparative, Heinrich and others still feel there needs to be an increase in rates.
“I don't regret working for the company and I certainly enjoyed my time there, but there are just some things I think should be done differently and this is one of them,” he said.
DuPont is an American chemical company founded in 1802. In 1950, the federal government asked DuPont to build and operate the Savannah River Site because of its expertise in nuclear operations. In 1989, management and operations of the Site switched over to Westinghouse.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @ DerrekAsberry.