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September 11, 2002
Ex-WorldCom Workers Seek Severance
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More than 40 ex-WorldCom workers from around the country asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Monday to require the bankrupt telecommunications giant to pay tens of millions of dollars in promised severance and health benefits.
The employees are acting with legal help funded by the AFL-CIO, whose president, John Sweeney, also sent letters to the heads of AOL Time Warner Inc. and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., asking them not to stand in the way of the severance request.
"These WorldCom workers believed in their company and worked hard for their company and in return they were robbed of their 401(k)s, their jobs, and health care," Sweeney said.
The Associated Press notes that because WorldCom is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, the court must approve virtually every dollar the company spends, and it must listen to any objections from creditors.
Worldcom filed for bankruptcy on July 21. Over the preceding four months, it had laid off or said it would fire 12,800 people.
When bankruptcy proceedings began, the court allowed WorldCom to pay $22 million in severance to about 4,000 workers who had been let go. Each worker's check was capped at $4,650 even though many employees had been promised much better packages.
The AP reports that WorldCom itself asked the court last week to let it pay $36 million more in severance it had promised and to cancel lucrative severance packages it had given to 19 executives. The company said those actions would improve the morale of its remaining employees.
The motion is scheduled to be heard Oct. 1.