I am writing to let you know that the UFT today concluded negotiations on an agreement that restores the traditional post-Labor Day school start for our members, leaves intact the pension and health benefits of all current UFT members in active service or retired, and preserves our hard-won age 55 retirement benefit in the face of enormous political pressure to roll that back. We have agreed to support legislation to modify pension measures for newly-hired UFT members, which will provide the city with much-needed cost savings during this severe economic downturn.
In every respect, this agreement is a win for everyone. We are all very concerned about the heavy losses our pension system has incurred during this economic crisis and the looming cuts for schools. No only does this deal help shore up the city budget with new savings, which will hopefully be used for schools, it also maintains the age 55 retirement benefit that we fought many years to achieve and returns us to the tradition of teachers and students starting school after Labor Day, something that our members, particularly those with families, very much wanted.
As a result of the worst economic crisis in the United States since the Great Depression, public services – including public education – have been subjected to draconian budget cuts, public sector workers have been laid-off and public sector unions have come under pressure to diminish the salaries, health benefits and pension benefits of their members.
From the start of this economic crisis, the UFT has identified two primary objectives which have guided our response to this crisis: protecting the quality of the educational services provided to New York City public school children and securing the economic livelihood and professional status of our members.
The UFT has rightly rejected efforts to raise the retirement age of New York City public school educators and otherwise reduce their pension benefits – efforts that have grown in intensity since two large state public employee unions earlier this month negotiated agreements which included such measures.
How the agreement affects current members
- Employees who have been required to report to begin work on the Thursday before Labor Day will report back to work the Tuesday after Labor Day because the two days have been restored, effective immediately.
- All of their pension and health benefits are intact.
- The 55/25 and 55/27 early retirement benefits are preserved and there will be no changes in contributions for in-service members.
- All UFT members will continue to receive the 7% guaranteed annualized rate of return for the fixed investment option in the voluntary Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) programs for BERS and TRS members. The additional 1.25% rate above the state-guaranteed 7% will no longer be available, a modification that reflects the downturn in investment income after the stock market collapse last year.
How the agreement affects future hires
- New UFT-represented employees in titles where employees have been required to report to begin work on the Thursday before Labor Day will report back to work the Tuesday after Labor Day.
- New UFT-represented employees will enjoy the 55/27 retirement benefit, which remains intact.
- New UFT-represented employees will continue to have the same pension benefits as current members, but they will make additional contributions for these benefits. Breaking it down, under the 55/27 retirement plan, new employees will make a 4.85 percent pension contribution for 27 years and 1.85 percent thereafter, up from the current 4.85 percent contribution for 10 years and then 1.85 percent through 27 years.
- New UFT-represented employees will become vested in the pension plan after 10 years of service, rather than the current five. The impact of this change is modest since most UFT-represented educators can elect to withdraw their pension contributions as a lump-sum payment if they quit during their first 10 years on the job.
- New UFT-represented employees will be eligible for retiree health insurance coverage after 15 years instead of 10 years. That change will reward educators who choose to make teaching a career.
- New UFT-represented employees will receive the 7% guaranteed annualized rate of return for the fixed investment option in the voluntary Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) programs for BERS and TRS members.