Pension Plan FAQs

  • Who is covered by the Plan?

    Employees of contributing Employers who employ electrical workers pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between IBEW Local 6 and the San Francisco Electrical Contractors Association which require contributions to this Plan ("Collective Bargaining Agreement") are covered by this Plan. Certain Employees of IBEW Local 6 and the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee ("JATC") participate pursuant to Subscription Agreements entered into with the Plan. In addition, former bargaining unit personnel who qualify as alumni are permitted to participate in the Plan as allowed under IRS regulations. See Section 3 of the SPD for a summary of the Plan's participation and eligibility rules.

  • Who runs my Plan?

    Only the Board of Trustees of the Plan is authorized to interpret the Plan document provisions described in this booklet. No Employer, Union or any other person or organization is authorized to interpret the Plan, except as authorized by the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has the discretionary authority to determine benefit claims, make findings of fact and construe the terms of the Plan, any Plan amendments, and other pertinent documents or rules and regulations.

  • Where can I get information concerning the Plan?

    This booklet is only a brief description of the Plan. Copies of the Plan, Trust Agreement, and the Plan's annual report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (Form 5500) are available for your review at the Plan Office during normal working hours upon advance written request.

    You may obtain copies of these documents by written request and upon payment of a reasonable copying charge (25 cents per page). You should contact the Plan Office to determine the charges. The Plan's phone number is 415-263-3670. You may write to the Plan Office at: 720 Market Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94102.

  • Can I use my benefits as security?

    No. Federal law does not permit you to assign, sell or otherwise dispose of your rights, nor can anyone else obtain your rights under the Plan. One exception to that rule is that a court may order that all or a portion of your benefits be used to satisfy child or spousal support obligations pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. In addition, the Plan may be required to comply with an IRS levy on your pension benefits once your benefits are in pay status. (Exception: At retirement, you may assign a portion of your monthly benefit to the S.F. Electrical Workers Health and Welfare Plan to automatically pay your monthly retiree medical premiums.

  • Can I Borrow from the Plan?

    No. The Internal Revenue Code does not permit Plan loans from a defined benefit pension plan, such as this Plan.

  • May I Contribute to the Plan When I am Not Working?

    No. Employee contributions are not permitted under the Plan.

  • May I buy additional benefits at retirement?

    No, generally you are not allowed to pay into the Plan. However, under a pension enhancement provision, you may transfer all or a portion of your NCEW defined contribution plan account to this Plan to increase your Plan benefit. This option is described in more detail in Section 7.3 of the SPD.

  • Might I lose benefits because of IRS limits on benefits?

    The Internal Revenue Code has established certain limits on the amount of pension benefits you may receive. Although these limits are not expected to apply in ordinary cases, the Plan is required to contain certain rules restricting your benefits.

  • How often and when do I receive a pension statement?

    Once a year. You will receive an annual statement which shows the hours reported on your behalf by month and your anticipated monthly pension benefit at normal retirement age as of December 31 of the prior year. In most years you should receive the statement by the end of May of each year. If you have not received your statement by that time, contact the Plan Office.

  • Why does it take so long to receive my annual statement?

    The following time line may provide you with a better understanding of the events that need to occur to complete your annual statement:

    • December hours are received in January and processed in February;
    • Incoming reciprocal hours for December from other plans are not received until sometime in February and processed in March (by including the additional month of contribution activity, the annual valuation statements will also reflect any late hours and contributions that are reported in February);
    • The Plan's books are closed in mid-March;
    • The Plan's certified public accountant conducts the annual audit during the latter part of March;
    • The accountant completes the draft financial statements by early to mid-April;
    • As soon as the financial statements are completed, hours and contributions that have been credited to individual records are then verified for accuracy;
    • The annual statements are prepared and distributed before May 31st in most instances.

    In addition, unforeseen events and problems such as banking errors, may occur which can lead to delays.

  • How are apprenticeship hours counted?

    Hours for first year apprentices count towards vesting (Credited Service) but not for benefits (Pension Credit). After the first year, apprentices receive Pension Credit (see Section 6.1 of SPD) for each hour worked in Covered Employment.

  • What happens to Employer contributions made on my behalf when I work in an area of a different IBEW Local Union?

    For a more detailed summary of what happens, see Section 12 of the SPD. If you work under a Collective Bargaining Agreement in the jurisdiction of another IBEW Local Union, your Employer's contributions under that agreement will be made on your behalf to that Local Union's pension fund. If that Local Union's pension fund is signatory to the Electrical Industry Pension Reciprocal Agreement (or an separate agreement with this Plan's Trust), the contributions that are reported to the other pension fund will be transferred to this Plan provided that you have authorized the transfer by registering with the Electronic Reciprocal Transfer System (ERTS) and you qualify to designate the Northern California Electrical Workers Pension Plan as your Home Fund (see Section 12.2 of the SPD.) in accordance with the Electrical Industry Reciprocal Pension Agreement.

  • If I die before retiring will my beneficiary(ies) receive my pension benefits?

    Yes. See Section 10 for a more detailed summary of the Plan's death benefit rules.

    If you die after you have become vested in your Plan benefits, and before benefits have commenced being paid to you, your surviving Spouse will be entitled to a Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (see Section 10.3 of SPD.), provided you were married at least one year prior to your death. A Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity pays the same amount that would have been paid to you if you had retired with a Joint and 50% Survivor Annuity (see Section 10.2 of SPD.) on the day before your death. Your surviving Spouse is not eligible, however, to commence receiving that benefit until the first day of the month following the earliest retirement age you could have retired under the Plan (age 55). Thus, if you die at age 33 and you were vested, your surviving Spouse would not commence receiving a monthly benefit until the date you would have attained age 55.

    If you are not married, a lump sum death benefit is available to your beneficiary provided that you are vested and you have accumulated at least 4,000 hours of Pension Credit since any Permanent Break in Service. The benefit is equal to the amount of Employer contributions paid on your behalf to the Fund.

    A surviving Spouse who is entitled to the Preretirement Survivor Annuity described above (which is a deferred monthly benefit) will be given the opportunity to elect the immediate lump sum death benefit instead of the deferred monthly benefit. If the lump sum is elected, the amount of the survivor annuity will be reduced (or eliminated) by the actuarial pension value of the lump sum death benefit. Benefits are paid within a reasonable period after the Plan Office receives a completed application, death certificate and other required information.

  • What should I do when I want to retire?

    You should contact the Plan Office if you are disabled or you intend to retire in the near future. The Plan Office will furnish you with a pension application form, which you should complete and submit to the Plan Office. You are encouraged to contact the Plan Office at least 4 months prior to your anticipated retirement to schedule an appointment with a Plan representative.

  • What happens if I become totally and permanently disabled?

    If you have ten or more years of Pension Credit without a Permanent Break in Service, you earned at least 300 hours of Pension Credit within the 36 month period immediately prior to your application for a Disability Pension, and it is determined that you are totally and permanently disabled as defined in the Plan (generally based on the same disability criteria used by the Social Security Administration), you will be entitled to a disability benefit based on your accumulated Pension Credit.

    You are not entitled to commence receiving your disability benefit until you have been disabled a minimum of six months. Your benefits begin on the first day of the month following the filing of an application for disability benefits or on the first day of the sixth month of disability, whichever is later. However, if you file a copy of your Social Security disability award letter within 60 days from the date you receive it, your benefits will be granted retroactively to the sixth month of disability. That benefit is payable for your lifetime, unless you recover from your disability or you fail to cooperate with Plan requests for information or documentation of your continued disability. If you are married, the normal form of benefit is a Joint and 50% Survivor Annuity. See Section 9 for more information on the Plan's disability pension.

    If you have not earned ten or more years of Pension Credit or you failed to earn at least 300 hours of Pension Credit within the 36 month period immediately prior to your application for a disability pension, you are not entitled to a disability benefit. Moreover, if you have only a partial disability, or one which does not meet Social Security's definition, you are not entitled to a disability benefit.

  • How early can I retire and how will early retirement impact my benefits?

    The Plan's early retirement age is 55 if you have ten or more years of Pension Credit earned since any Permanent Break in Service. Your early retirement benefit is less than your Normal Retirement Benefit because you are younger when your pension begins and will be paid a pension for a longer period.

    The amount you would receive at age 65 is reduced by one-half of one percent (.5%) for each month your retirement precedes age 65. That works out to a 6% a year reduction. Consequently, if you retire early at age 60, your pension is reduced by 30% (5 x 6%).

    You may also retire, however, if the sum of your age and service equals eighty five (85) or more and you have accumulated at least 1,000 hours of Pension Credit under the Inside Wiremen Agreement during the three years immediately preceding your retirement date, and you meet certain hour requirements. If you meet these requirements, you may retire and not have your pension reduced for early retirement.

  • What benefit options are available when I retire?

    Federal law requires that for Participants who are married for at least one year, the normal form of benefit is a Joint and 50% Survivor Annuity. Under this form of benefit, your monthly pension is reduced to account for your pension benefit being paid over the life or life span of two individuals (you and your Spouse). Upon your death, your surviving Spouse would be entitled to one-half of the monthly pension that you were receiving. You, with your Spouse's consent, may reject the Joint and 50% Survivor Annuity and choose one of the other optional forms of benefit that are available, including a single life annuity payable through your lifetime only, or a 66.67%, 75% or 100% survivor annuity option. In addition, each of the survivor annuity forms of benefit includes a pop-up option, which, with an additional actuarial reduction, will restore your benefits to the amount you would have received as a single life pension in the event that your beneficiary predeceases you. With your Spouse's written consent, you may designate another beneficiary to receive benefits upon your death under one of these survivor options.

    For non-married Participants, the normal form of benefit is a single life pension payable for the Participant's lifetime. If you are single, you may select a Joint and 50%, 66.7%, or 100% Survivor Annuity option, with or without the pop-up option. These benefit options are described in more detail in Section 7 of the SPD.

  • May I withdraw my pension in a lump sum?

    No, lump sum distributions to Participants are not permitted under the Plan. (The Plan's benefit options and payment options are summarized in Section 7 of the SPD). There is an exception for small pensions. If, in the rare situation, you are eligible to receive your pension and the actuarially determined present value of your benefit is $5,000 or less, you will receive a lump sum payment equal to the actuarially equivalent amount. Lump sum benefits are also payable, however, upon your death as explained in Section 10 of the SPD.

  • Once I begin receiving my pension, may I change my benefit option or take a lump sum distribution?

    No. Your benefit option cannot be changed once you (and your Spouse, if applicable) select the option and your benefits have commenced being paid to you. If you later die, benefits will be paid in accordance with the benefit option selected. See Section 10 of the SPD for more information on the Plan's survivor benefit options.

  • May I work in the electrical industry after retirement?

    No, with limited exceptions. There are Plan provisions prohibiting such employment and your monthly pension will be suspended in most instances, if you work in such employment before attaining the age of 65. At age 65, there are no restrictions on the work you perform, provided that any otherwise prohibited employment performed within the ten counties comprising the San Francisco Bay Area be restricted to less than 40 hours per month. There are no restrictions on any employment as of April 1st following your attainment of age 70½ and you are permitted to perform other types of work which are not in the electrical industry, regardless of age, without impacting your pension benefits. See Section 11 of the SPD for a summary of the Plan's rules on working in the electrical industry after retirement.

    There is an exception to the Plan's benefit suspension rules for work as public and private building and electrical inspectors and positions in sales of electrical equipment or products. The Plan also provides an exception to the Plan's benefit suspension rules for instructors of Taft Hartley joint apprenticeship programs. However, if you desire to work in any of these positions you must seek prior approval from the Board of Trustees. You should identify the specific job for which you have a bona fide offer of employment, including a job description from the prospective employer. The Plan office will NOT render advice with respect to hypothetical employment, and even if the Plan Office renders an opinion that a bona fide offer of employment appears not to be prohibited, that advice will not protect you from having benefits suspended in the event the actual work you undertake is, in fact, prohibited employment.

  • What do I need to do now?

    You should ensure that your name and social security number are correct with each Employer for whom you work and inform the Plan Office of your correct address.