BY HENRY REICHMAN
The following statement was released January 20 by the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA). A link to their petition can be found below.
The University of California is currently considering introducing a new pension plan for its employees hired after 2016. These proposed changes will dramatically reduce pension benefits for most new faculty. The Academic Senate will be reviewing the proposals over the next few weeks. Your opportunity to provide input to the Senate lasts just a couple weeks. For some purposes, it will be most effective to provide input this week. Contact information is at the end of this document.
This ill-conceived and ill-advised plan, which was negotiated behind closed doors by President Napolitano and Governor Brown without any engagement with the Academic Senate, the Regents, the Legislature, or the larger university community, will do serious damage to the quality of the University of California.
While the details are highly technical the implications are not:
1) This is a serious cut in benefits to faculty and many other professional staff, such as staff scientists and nurses, hired after July 2016. (See pages 44, 45 and 84 of the task force report.)
2) UC faculty are already much more poorly compensated than faculty at UC’s peer institutions despite the fact that the cost of living in most parts of California is very high. This plan will make it much harder to attract faculty and other professionals and keep them here.
3) This plan does not do anything to make the existing pension system healthier and could actually decrease the rate at which the unfunded liability is retired. (See page 57 of the task force report.)
We agree with the assessment of Academic Senate leaders J. Daniel Hare and James A. Chalfant’s analysis, who concluded:
“If salaries don’t increase to compensate for these reduced benefits, then UC will have to settle for a lower-quality of faculty who did not receive better offers elsewhere. Many UC faculty members were hired in spite of more lucrative salary offers elsewhere, just as many have either declined outside offers or declined to pursue them. It may have been true at one time that benefits made up for our uncompetitive salaries. The 2014 Total Remuneration Study showed that no longer to be the case. While salaries and benefits continue to lag, and we are contemplating making the lag even greater with the new-tier options, it is important to note that most of the non-pecuniary attributes of UC employment also are declining.”
As Academic Senate Chair Dan Hare stated in his remarks to the Regents in September:
“Any reduction in either salary or benefits surely will have consequences for the ability of UC to build and retain a future faculty that is as distinguished as the current faculty. As recommendations are brought forward in early 2016, I encourage the Regents to carefully consider not only the budgetary cost of future retirement options, but also their impact on how faculty members behave in terms of recruitment and retention. If we are not careful, small budgetary savings will risk far greater costs to the University, our students, and the citizens of California.”
We urge you to sign our petition to express your opposition to proposed changes to the UC Retirement Plan. We will forward the names of those that sign to local campus faculty welfare committees so they are aware of local concern about this issue.
UCOP has also set up a comment link where you can provide your feedback on the task force recommendations. We urge you to express your concerns about the plan there and please also send a copy of your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As co-Chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association and on behalf of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, I wish to address the Regents concerning the third discussion item of the Finance Committee agenda, item F3, “Update on Final 2015-16 Budget.” The update, produced by the Office of the President, misleadingly claims that the final budget “incorporates the funding framework developed by UC and the Governor.” If you’ll recall, the “framework” of the May Revise proposed that the state make a contribution of $436 million toward the unfunded liability of the UC Retirement Plan. The final budget, however, promises only a “one-time payment” of $96 million; there is nothing in the budget that commits the state to two additional payments of $170 million. Yet even this meager one-time payment is contingent upon Regential approval of a cap on pensionable salary consistent with PEPRA (Public Employee Pension Reform Act) for employees hired after July 1, 2016.
The Council of UC Faculty Associations is opposed to the University making permanent changes in the structure of its retirement plan in exchange for a very modest one-time contribution from the State. We are especially opposed to the introduction of a full defined-contribution option. There is absolutely no justification for the proposed introduction of a full defined-contribution option; neither the Legislature nor the Governor called for the introduction of a Defined Contributions plan in aligning the UCRP with PEPRA. Yet UCOP seems bent on introducing such an option, to the point that their statement exposes their intention as a foregone conclusion rather than a possible outcome of consultation and deliberation — those elements of what we once understood as “shared governance.”
I call your attention to the third paragraph on page 3 of the F3 agenda item. First OP declares, “The President will convene a retirement options task force to advise on the design of new retirement options that will include the pensionable salary cap consistent with PEPRA. The retirement options will be brought to the Regents next year for review and approval.” But apparently the “design of new retirement options” is a fait accompli, for the penultimate sentence of that paragraph declares, “new employees will have the opportunity to choose a fully defined contribution plan as a retirement option, as an alternative to the PEPRA-capped defined benefit plan.”
Since the two minutes allotted in the public comments session is the temporal equivalent of Twitter’s 140 characters, let me ask: #What’s up with UCOP? If I had to speculate, I’d say that UCOP’s attempt to replace Defined Benefits with Defined Contributions suggests its preference for a mobile, “flexible,” precarious professoriate with a consequently short-term institutional memory — a professoriate that wouldn’t recall that only 6 years ago, the relative merits of defined contribution versus defined benefit plans were thoroughly, carefully, and widely discussed by UC constituents. Given substantial evidence that defined benefits are more cost-efficient than defined contributions in achieving the same level of benefits, it was agreed that the University of California was best served by continuing with UCRP as a defined benefit plan. Thus in 2010, when the President recommended and the Regents endorsed pension reforms, UCRP was preserved as a defined benefit plan.
Ironically, the paragraph in question concludes, “For represented groups, retirement options will be subject to collective bargaining.” Well, the UC Faculty Associations represent a good number of those faculty, members of the Academic Senate, without collective bargaining rights, and we say that UCOP has vitiated the interests of that faculty, both those vested in the current UCRP and those who will be hired after 2016. We deplore the introduction of a different tier of faculty benefits, but we firmly oppose the attempt of UCOP to introduce a fully defined contribution plan in this untoward and unjustified manner.