UC, Unions Revisit Pensions

    UC officials have called on all of the system’s unions to renegotiate pension structures in mid-contract negotiations this week, highlighted by workers’ protests at every campus systemwide.

    Will Parson/Guardian
    UCSD employees marched to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox’s complex on Oct. 25 to deliver a complaint about pension plans. The protestors chanted, “If you must chop, start at the top!” throughout their march.

    In closed-door talks in Oakland, the university presented its pension plan to union delegates from three unions — the university has informally revisited pension issues with all of its unions — representing myriad employees including technical, custodial and food service workers. Under the university’s proposal, workers would begin contributing 2 percent of their salaries to the UC retirement plan. The level of payments that employees pay into the fund would eventually rise to 8 percent, though future hikes have not been solidly outlined, according to Brad Hayward, a spokesman for the UC Office of the President.

    However, some union representatives balked at the plan, and said they do not want to contribute any percentage to UCRP.

    Representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees accused the UC Board of Regents of sidestepping its financial duties to the plan since 1991. At the time, both UC and employee contributions to UCRP were suspended because investment kickbacks during the 1980s boosted resources above the plan’s necessary funding level.

    However, inevitable economic shifts over the past decade have re-emphasized the need for contributions, according to UC Academic Senate Chair John Oakley.

    “It was always anticipated that it would be necessary to resume contributions in the future,” Oakley stated in a report to the Academic Senate in May 2005. “That day is close at hand.”

    According to the university’s projections, UCRP would dip below 100 percent funding levels after 2010, with the regents requiring the levels stay within a “corridor” of 95 to 110 percent. Union officials called the negotiations premature and rushed, especially in the middle of labor contracts. However, university officials said that they need to revisit the pension package now, before several contracts expire in the coming year.

    “Restarting contributions from all sides is fundamental to the long-term health of the retirement plan,” Hayward said. “Millions of people rely on this funding for their livelihood.”

    Keeping the pension plan financially viable is also crucial to enticing better employees, Hayward said.

    The university, however, needs to take better care of its current employees, according to local AFSCME representative Celene Perez.

    “This pension contribution plan is just one segment of the burden being put on workers,” she said.

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