Union Retirement- What’s the story

I’m an officer in AMO and have been for 3 years. I always hear that the union pensions and retirement plans are in absolute shambles. Are the retirement plans worth sticking around for? I hear two separate sides. People who say the retirement plans are good and some who say good luck every getting one. Just wondering what people’s thoughts are? Thanks!!

Don’t know about AMO, but at least in 2022 the SIU plan was (allegedly) funded at 150%. Roughly worked out to 40% of highest three years at 20ish years with an additional 2%/yr after that. Say you started working as an SIU member at age 20 and worked til 65 and your high three averaged $750/day, you’d be looking at something like $123k/yr in retirement, with continued SHBP medical coverage plus social security and Medicare. I know tug captains making comfortably more in retirement than they did while working.

Defined benefit retirement plans were once the standard and carried an entire generation (plus) of blue collar workers and their kids into the middle class.

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SIU pension/retirement……lol. Good luck.


I don’t know how SIU Offshore pension works but SIU Inland has a sweet pension deal.

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The average of the top 5 consecutive years out of your last 10.

I think it caps at 60% maximum. So if your average per year was $150,000 then you’re pension is $90,000 at maximum. Still a good deal if you have everything paid for by then so minimal expenses.

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AMO doesn’t have a pension anymore. What they offer is minimally better than a 401k company match and you had better be maxing out your personal 401k contributions and annual IRA contributions if you ever want to retire. You can’t count on the AMO DC and MPB plans to amount to enough to retire on alone.

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I don’t know where you got your information but here is a reality check from the SIU:
SPP 03/2019 12
Juan is a seaman who is retiring at age 65. He has credit for 8,835 days of service.
Since he has credit for 125 days of service after January 1, 2002, he compares his service
with the table of Regular Normal Pension Benefits for Seamen and finds his benefit amount
of $1,120 per month.

There are many more examples in the SIU “A Guide To Your Benefits” It is full of humbuggery and obfuscation.

Here is the link: https://www.seafarers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/A-Guide-to-Your-Benefits-from-the-Seafarers-Pension-Plan-SPD03-2019.pdf



So whether you sail 8800 days as wiper or 8800 days as qmed you get the same pension?

If that’s the case, that is sad… Mostly sad that anyone would stick around that long to get a benefit that small

Edit:. Following the link in the above post, there is also a wage based pension calculation. So for a guy who averaged 294.5 days of covered employment (shipping days plus vacation basically) for 30 years, this gives 8835 days of service. That number divided by 365 gives about 24.2 years of creditable service. That number times 2% gives you 48.4% of your high 5. High five is highest 5 consecutive years of BASE wages out of the last 10 you worked.

So for example, you worked as QMED or bosun or steward for those high consecutive 5 with a base of 6k, that would give a pension of about $2905 a month.

Not terrible but certainly a hell of a lot better than $1120 from the first calculation.

I would never put all my eggs in the union pension basket. After seeing the wake of both AMO and USW’s clusterfuckes, I just dont trust them. Chances are you make enough money to fully fund your 401k. Do that. If youre sailing 3rd Mate/AE you may be under the income cap for a Roth IRA as well, do that while you can. AMO also get the Defined contribution plan which is… not much. Youre much better of putting what you can into a brokerage account, or learning about other places to invest. You can seriously make so much more money in retirement thanks to compounding interest. You just gotta be smart, and not collect baby mama’s, truck payments, boat payments, ect. If you’re on reddit, id reccomend checking out r/fire, or there are some good FIRE folks on YouTube as well.

When I did the math, planning on 20 years in the union for the bennies isn’t worth it because youre betting on 2 things, which I wouldn’t bet on.

  1. We dont figure out national healthcare in the next 20 years. How much would it suck if you put in the work to not worry about healthcare just to have the goverment sort it out anyway. Also worth mentioning, for AMO if you are a young grad 3 years out of school, and you hit your 20 years at 45, theres a $50,000 income cap on the union healthcare. If you retire to shoreside work, one, they will probably have healthcare, or two, youd have to take a massive paycut to keep health Benefits.

  2. The pension will still be there in 20 years. Not a problem for AMO because it’s not there anymore.

The best plan I’ve seen is maxing out your pre and post tax 401k with AMO. And then rolling it all into a Roth IRA at year 10, but at the junior officer level that does require a bit of a spartan lifestyle.

My AMO retirement is $2k before taxes. Started in 1995, retired 2017.

That’s pretty good. $1,000/year of service :joy:

Yeah. Pays the taxes on my investments. . :man_shrugging:

You clearly just stopped reading there because the next page has what he’s talking about.

This is a REALLY good deal for SIU inland because they almost exclusively get day rates without overtime (overtime is already factored in) so your annual “base wage” is significantly higher than deep sea folks.

I got my information from being an SIU delegate for three years and from talking to numerous soon to retire and just retired harbor tug captains and engineers. I do not have any direct experience of retirement, other than reading the CBAs. And there may indeed be significant differences between unlicensed and licensed pensions.

You could well be correct.

I would have to go back and look at the CBA, but if I recall correctly, inland officers also get 2:1 retirement day credit off at least some portion of their service. It really adds up.

That depends on the contract you have with your company. I’m not sure any contract has 1:1 but I know 1.5:1 is common.

I looked it up, it’s top 5 out of last 10.

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You seem to be missing my point. I didn’t stop reading, there are numerous examples in the “Guide to Benefits” and they all provide a meager existence to any SIU member who relies on them exclusively. Brother “txh2oman” can you tell me of any SIU mariner who is working under an SIU contract where they make $750 per day (That’s a 135,000 a year with even time rotation.) In the example used for the “Wage-Related” pension, fictional Bob winds up with $1,050 per month when he is 62. Remember to be eligible for this pension, you have to have worked for an employer who has been “paying the proper amount to the plan.” Who are these employers? There is a reason why the SIU pension plan is at 150% funding. Since the plan’s inception, they have been stingy with payments to the working members. Can you live off of the pension in any of the scenarios they have used as examples?

Yes, lots. SIU Inland employs deck and engineering officers, plenty of them make that and more.