Three months after University Provost Susan Hockfield announced that a projected $30 million budget deficit would force Yale to reduce its staff mainly through attrition and retirements, officials said they expect a higher than normal number of retirements by Yale union members at the end of this month as workers enjoy the benefits of new contracts signed last September.
Under the terms of the contract, which was signed Sept. 22, monthly pensions nearly doubled as the typical pension multiplier — the number by which workers’ salaries at retirement are multiplied in order to determine their pensions — increased from about 1.08 percent to 1.48 percent. In addition, members of locals 34 and 35, Yale’s two largest unions, will receive raises of 5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, as of Jan. 26, which will increase the value of their retirement packages.
“We’re guessing — and I would say we’re hoping — that a large number of people would take advantage of these improved retirement packages and choose to retire [soon],” University Deputy Provost Charles Long said.
On Oct. 28, Hockfield said a budget deficit for the 2004-2005 fiscal year would force the University to reduce the number of staff by 5 percent to 10 percent over the next two years. Hockfield said in October that the cuts will largely be accomplished through attrition and retirements.
A larger number of retirements would allow the University to have more flexibility as it reduces the size of its workforce, Long said.
Long said there had been an “unusually low number” of retirements over the last year, which he said he believed could be the result of employees waiting for the new contracts before retiring. In addition, Long said, it was clear that increasing pensions was an object of both sides during the negotiations.
The contracts were signed following a three-week strike by members of locals 34 and 35, which represent 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
While Hockfield said Yale will make reductions “across the spectrum of the staff,” she said she did not anticipate any difficulties with University operations. Long said while people will obviously not retire only from the lowest priority positions, workers can be moved to areas of greater need.
Yale Associate Vice President for Human Resources Robert Schwartz agreed that there should not be any disruptions.
“Our No. 1 priority is to ensure the highest level of service to the University community,” Schwartz said. “Retirements we would not anticipate would have an impact on that.”
Local 35 President Bob Proto said he had no direct knowledge that a larger number of employees was planning to retire, but said it was natural for people to wait for a new contract.
“When a pension goes from poor to decent, I’m sure people will consider it,” Proto said.
Proto said “a few” employees retired the last time a new contract was signed.
While some current union members may be planning to retire, some of those already out of the workforce say they are not happy with their pension packages and treatment by the University. Yale Unions Retirees Association President Doris Rogan, who retired in 1997, said her group met twice with Yale officials to discuss their pensions and developed a proposal to improve their packages. Rogan said they did not hear from Yale again until retirees received letters from the University in December informing them of a pension increase that Rogan said was too small and left out some employees.
“We were very upset by the way it was done,” Rogan said. “It was a slap in the face, as far as I’m concerned.”
Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper, who assumed his position Jan. 1, said he did not yet know enough about the issue to comment on it.
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