Friday, March 25, 2016

Is the pension story over?

After watching or listening to the Regents meeting, one might wonder how the DC-only option can be implemented.

In the public comments period, the unions that spoke all testified against it. Letters were received from the speaker of the state assembly and the president of the state senate in opposition. Regent John Pérez - the former speaker of the assembly - noted that in the PEPRA negotiations, a DC option was explicitly rejected by the then-leaders of the legislature. It was repeatedly noted that the DC-only option was not part of the Committee of Two deal with the governor. So receipt of the money attached to that deal is not contingent on having a DC-only option.

It was noted at the meeting that approval from the IRS is needed for the DC-only option. Can that be gotten by July 1? Maybe it is normally routine to get such an approval, but what happens if objections are filed with IRS by the unions?

Until current union contracts expire, the university can't impose any part of the new tier on units covered by those contracts, including the DC-only option. Even when the contracts do expire, bargaining in "good faith" must occur and the university can only impose DC-only after an "impasse" is reached. The unions could file charges with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) asserting that there was not a true impasse. Whether a true impasse occurred ultimately would be determined after the fact (after the imposition) by PERB which is a time consuming process. There is first an investigation, then a hearing before a judge within PERB, and then the possibility of an appeal to the full Board. If it were eventually determined that a true impasse had not been reached, the university would have to retroactively move those who chose DC-only into the DB plan. Indeed, they might have to move everyone retroactively into the previous tier.

The unions made it clear that they don't want DC-only as an option. And they don't like the fact that faculty are better treated than staff in the new tier. Obviously, talk at a Regents meeting is cheap. Would the unions - especially the nurses - actually strike over the pension issue? They could first exhaust the PERB process and then strike. What would happen then? Who knows?

Add to these complications the fact that there are logistic problems in getting the new tier on the various campus payroll system by July 1 (along with the problems of the ongoing launch of UCPath systemwide payroll system).

It doesn't seem as through this story has reached a conclusion.

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