Dear USFA Members:
Attached you will find 3 proposals regarding retirement initiatives that have been signed off between the Negotiating Teams of the University and the Faculty Association and recommended to the membership for ratification by the Executive. We believe that ratification and implementation of these proposals are in the best interests of the membership within the current environment, and support our explicit goal of preventing involuntary faculty job loss.
There can be little doubt that the University is facing some financial pressure, the extent of which is not entirely clear. However, recent lay-offs in other bargaining units to a degree that has not been seen in recent history indicate that the University is treating their claim of financial distress very seriously. With the threat of program cuts and faculty lay-offs looming as a consequence of TransformUS, it seemed prudent to negotiate voluntary retirement options that could serve to reduce the faculty payroll without lay-offs. Whether or not these steps will satiate the University’s thirst for program and faculty cuts is an open question, but it is in the best interests of USFA members that we use alternative mechanisms to achieve downsizing in order to protect the positions of current faculty who wish to stay at the University.
It is important to emphasize that the position of the Executive and the bargaining mandate of the Negotiation Team is to vehemently oppose non-voluntary faculty job loss. The Employer has other options to achieve operating budget reductions, and the position of the Association is that those measures ought to be completely exhausted before lay-offs of faculty due to financial exigency are implemented. Lay-off of faculty, some of whom have been recruited from all over the world, should not occur at this time because it is obvious to the Association that other measures (e.g., hiring freeze, long-term reallocation of resources, utilization of cash and long-term investments) can be used to solve the budgeted financial deficit. These may not be the preferred solutions of senior administrators to the crisis but they are viable options, and they avoid the capricious act of terminating the employment of faculty members in whom the university has made significant investments, and who have also have invested significantly in the institution.
The collective agreement assigns University Council the responsibility of determining if programs warrant continuation, in whole or in part, whether for financial or academic reasons. Before specific programs can be discontinued and faculty lay-offs effected, University Council must make that decision. Based on the reasons cited above, the USFA rejects the claim that any programs need to be cut for financial reasons. Thus, if Council is asked to eliminate or downsize programs, it should only be for academic reasons.
The least painful and mandated (through the collective agreement) manner to effect a reduction in faculty numbers due to financial exigency is through a voluntary retirement scheme, and Proposal 1 outlines such a scheme. Proposal 2, the Reduced Appointment Retirement Plan, replaces the current Reduced Appointment Plan contained in Article 13.2.3, and Proposal 3 clarifies the notice requirements for retirement. The language for the proposals is attached and the main components of each proposal are summarized below.
Proposal 1: Incentive Plan for Retirement
The Incentive Plan for Retirement offers up to 80 members of the Association whose age and years of service total at least 85 the opportunity to voluntarily retire effective June 30, 2014 and receive a retirement allowance equal to one-half year of salary plus $3750 per year of full-time service. Approximately 210 employees with age and years of service equal to or greater than 85 are eligible to apply. The median payout for those eligible is approximately $193,000. The USFA and Employer are finalizing the final list of eligible employees for the Plan, so that we can contact and advise them of their eligibility and payout amount.
If less than 80 employees apply for the Plan, then every application will be approved. If more than 80 employees apply for the Plan, then the first 45 employees with the highest age and years of service will be selected. The remaining 35 employees will be selected according to criteria ensuring alignment with the strategic complement needs of the university and academic units. The USFA has observer status for the deliberations regarding the selection of eligible employees.
The Negotiating Team pushed the Employer hard on increasing the value of the retirement allowance and argued that uptake might be low, but they insisted that this was an appropriate incentive. The proposed package is richer than most retirement incentives at other Canadian Universities, but it remains to be seen whether it is rich enough to promote uptake by 80 members, or approximately 40% of the members eligible for the Plan.
Proposal 2: Reduced Appointment Retirement Plan
Participation by members in the Reduced Appointment Plan outlined in Article 13.2.3 of the collective agreement requires the approval of the Employer. Over the past several years, the Employer has declined most applications for the RAP primarily because Deans were unwilling to cover the extra pension costs associated with the RAP, although other arbitrary and not very believable reasons were supplied for the denials.
Participation in the Reduced Appointment Retirement Plan (RARP) now becomes a right, although it is restricted to a period of from one to three years and members must retire at end of their reduced appointment. The 100% pension top-up remains in place, as well as a $3500 yearly allowance to be used for research activities.
The option of reducing to part-time for a defined period of time is not affected by the RARP, and members are eligible to apply for this option under Article 13.2.1, which remains unchanged.
Proposal 3: Notice of Retirement
The collective agreement stipulates that 90 days of notice must be given for resignations but remains silent on notice for retirement, although functionally 90 days of notice is required since retirement is per se a resignation. The language on notice stipulates that 90 days of notice for retirement shall be provided, and requests that up to 12 months of notice be provided, if possible.
A general membership meeting to consider ratification of the proposals will be held on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 at 3:00 pm in Arts 241. A separate meeting notification with the room location will be sent out towards the end of August.
Individual e-mails to members who are eligible to apply for the Incentive Plan for Retirement will be sent by the end of August, along with the calculated retirement allowance. The USFA and Employer are currently working on some dates to hold information sessions for prospective applicants.