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Faculty Ratify a Transition to Retirement Program

Submitted by Staff on Fri, 10/16/2015 - 13:51

Tenured and tenure-track faculty voted overwhelmingly to accept the establishment of a new Faculty Transition to Retirement Program (FTTRP). The members voted 97% to 3% to approve the tentative agreement negotiated with RU management.

Read the full text of the FTTRP

Read the Frequently Asked Questions about the FTTRP document that explains when faculty can take advantage of the terms of this phased retirement program, if the person decides to use the benefit, as well as the basic terms and conditions of the new benefit.

The benefit is optional, so faculty members are not obligated to use the FTTRP. Faculty who are planning ahead for retirement should consult with the union in order to gather more information as they evaluate the option for themselves as well as consulting with Rutgers University Human Resources and the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan.

Here is Rudy Bell's explanation/ background discussion of the negotiations on this benefit with comments on some of the key points. Finally having some type of phased retirement program in place has been a long time coming and it falls short of what the union originally proposed. As Rudy says, "We won, sort of."

To: Tenured and Tenure-Track Rutgers faculty members

From: Rudy Bell, History Department NB-SAS

Subject: FTTRP

We won, sort of.

David Hughes asked me to provide some background information on the “Faculty Transition to Retirement Program” (FTTRP) and I am pleased to do so. Going back nearly a decade, to early planning for what became the 2007-2011 Contract, we developed and then negotiated for what we called “Phased Retirement”. Our initial research included surveys of more than forty peer institutions, some with (but mostly without) unionized faculty. Nearly all had written provisions of one sort or another to provide for faculty, no longer constrained by age-based forced retirement, who wished to consider some form of gradual, partial, or transitional retirement. At Rutgers there was no policy, although there were numerous instances of “individual arrangements” reached with faculty interested in phased retirement. The Union filed OPRA requests for redacted copies of these “individual arrangements” and studied their varying terms.

We ultimately formulated a “five years of half-work for half-pay” (50/50 for 5) proposal, which was for a longer term and a higher rate of pay than any of the individual arrangements existent at RU but within the boundaries of a few of the more attractive programs we surveyed nationwide. Alas, we failed to achieve inclusion of any form of our phased retirement proposal in the formal contract negotiations that followed, apparently because the Rutgers administration preferred its “individual arrangements” approach. We did agree on a one-time buyout plan in 2009 and it benefited a few members. However, significant numbers of potentially eligible faculty did not find the terms sufficiently favorable, perhaps because the arrangements were neither phased nor transitional.

More recently, the administration expressed some openness to developing a formal phased retirement program but progress was halted by the refusal of the NJ State Division of Pensions to allow multi-year arrangements, despite the joint efforts of the Administration and the Union to overcome such objections, unfounded in our judgment. The agreement you are voting upon works within the compromise ruling by the State of New Jersey on time limits.  The maximum length of any individual FTTRP is three years and it must be completed within a five-year limit, after which date the entire agreement on multi-year agreements will sunset. Thereafter, only one-year agreements will be allowed and any pre-existing agreements with provisions lasting more than one year after the sunset will end within the year after sunset. A further restriction of the state regulations is that no salary increases are permitted under the agreements. Fortunately, directives from Trenton are not as immutable as laws of nature and we will work to un-sunset the proposed sunset…but that remains for the future. As of now, agreements cannot last more than three years and must be completed within six years.

So, we do not have all we aimed for on length of agreement. But we did achieve our primary goal of half pay for half work (50/50), an arrangement that is outstanding relative to “individual agreements” for those RU faculty who have formally retired in the past decade and that ranks at the top of what progressive institutions are offering nationally. Again as mandated by NJ Division of Pension regulations, the agreement applies only to full-time, tenured faculty with 10 years of service who are 55 or older and in the Alternate Benefit Program (ABP) for retirement benefits.

Moreover, beyond the stated restrictions, individuals will need to “negotiate” just what half work means – fall, not spring? half the usual teaching responsibility? this year, not next? Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning but no work from Thursday afternoon through Monday?  – whatever meets your needs and attains your dean’s approval. Your Union is here and a good place to consult about possible arrangements but the contractual agreement leaves much latitude. Once you reach an agreement, you are protected by the contractual grievance procedure, Article IX, which is robust but admittedly slow and inevitably not as strong as the tenure you are required to relinquish. Still, you remain a welcome part of the academic community, with your work and your pay protected for an agreed-upon term of service.

Participation in the program is optional for both parties. Faculty remain free to make arrangements outside the framework of FTTRP, for example waiver of requirement to return after a sabbatical or assignment to research only duties for a length of time while still fully employed.

A vote to approve the FTTRP agreement as a union member does not obligate you to personally participate, but it will strengthen the bargaining position of individual faculty who find a phased or transitional retirement program attractive and who seek truly prorated pay for their continuing work after formal retirement. It brings some transparency and consistency to the process.

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