Retiree pensions to increase

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

As a side agreement to the historic early union contract agreement ratified Tuesday by Yale unions Locals 34 and 35, University administrators will raise pensions for “old timer” union retirees, Yale Unions Retiree Association President Doris Rogan said Wednesday.

Rogan has said average pre-2002 retirees’ pensions were 35 percent lower than those of later retirees’ due to the 2002 contracts negotiation. But come July, Yale unions spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’05 said, the pre-2002 pensions will increase — in some cases up to about double the current amount. Still, there will be an upper limit to how much pre-2002 retiree pensions can increase, Cobb said, and the formula to calculate pensions for other retirees will stay the same.

The move follows six years of repeated requests, and several demonstrations, by YURA’s pre-2002 retirees to raise their pensions to post-2002 retiree levels. Several union retirees said they were glad the increases have finally come, since they have been fighting for pension raises for years.

Meanwhile, union retirees who also use the Yale Health Plan will receive better prescription benefits and improved health care services. But 1993 retiree Lois Jason said she does not like YHP because it does not provide services, such as prescriptions, efficiently. And some non-union retirees, including former Provost’s Office director Raymond Novak, said they wish the union benefits could be given to other retirees as well.

In response to the changes, Rogan said Yale officials are “trying to rectify the injustice” she felt Yale officials perpetrated.

Under the 2002 union contract, Yale and union officials agreed to raise retirement pension ratios for members who retired after January 2002. But soon after, Rogan, who retired in 1997, and other pre-2002 retirees started to host public panels and discussions to protest the decision not to raise older retirees’ pensions.

Vice President for Finance and Business Operations Shauna King and other University administrators have said they raised pre-2002 retirees’ pensions in 2004 and 2006. They added that the July 2006 raise was 4 percent at a time when inflation was 3 percent.

Nonetheless, Rogan said last month that she hoped Yale officials would increase pensions despite the current economic recession. Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said at the time that officials were not obligated to increase pensions.

Rogan said she has received over 30 calls from pre-2002 union retirees recently about the early contract agreement. She said two retirees burst into tears when she told them she was unsure whether the pensions would increase.

Several pre-2002 retirees extolled the pension changes Wednesday.

“I think it’s about time,” said Jason, who worked at Yale until 1993 and was introduced by union leadership at the two ratification meetings Tuesday as one of the union retirees who staged a sit-in at Yale’s Investments Office in 2002.

She said that after the 2002 contract was signed, she would ask former University Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper ’60, “Are you waiting for us to die and dry us and blow away, so you don’t have to give us a raise?”

“I’m very happy now that they recognized that we will live and will be staying a while,” Jason added. “I’m going to live to 100, and they’re going to have to pay me. And I deserve it — I put in my time.”

Union retirees will also be able to use the same revamped Yale Health Plan and YHP prescription plan that 70 percent of current members will use starting in July, Cobb said. The revamped YHP will not require an up-front deductible or a premium for dependents aged 19 to 25, and it will increase coverage in areas such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. The new prescription plan provide less-expensive co-pays for medication than the current YHP plan, and will have no upper limit on payments from the University for prescription coverage.

When told that the deductible would be removed, Rogan blurted out: “That’s wonderful. Oh goodness.”

But Jason said she did not want to use YHP for retirement health coverage. She said she knows “the long waits that the patients had” at the Yale University Health Services building, since she worked there from 1977 to 1979. (Yale officials say the new YUHS building currently being constructed behind the Grove Street Cemetery will improve efficiency.)

Novak — the retiree member of the YHP Member Advisory Committee, which reports to YUHS Director Paul Genecin — said the changes are “fantastic.”

But Novak also said he hopes officials would give the same benefits to non-union and management retirees.

“Being an old person, you’re at the health center a lot,” Novak said. “I’m there at least once every two weeks to pick up a prescription, see a doctor and all of that.”

He said the improved YHP union benefits were not discussed by the advisory committee, which has two union representatives and meets once a month.

There will be a union retirees meeting to discuss retiree benefits on April 24.

Comments