by James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
When the punitive 2005 Contract was released, one of the main benefits was supposed to be a 55-25 retirement incentive. The actual language in Article 4C says that the pension legislation should be enacted "without any cost to the city." To us that means that it should be revenue neutral meaning the pension deal should not cost the city anything or save the city any money. Now as the final bill is working its way through the State Legislature and the City released its budget proposal, it is clearer than ever how the city wins while only a small fraction of UFT members gain anything and many lose including all new hires.
In the latest city budget on page E-117, there is a category called "55/25 Program Savings: Savings generated by increased retirements as a result of the new age and experience retirement policy." For fiscal year 2009 the city will be saving $43,100,000 because of 55/25-55/27; for fiscal year 2010 that will jump to $68,600,000; for fiscal year 2011 it spikes to $87,500,000 and for 2012 the city will be saving $101,000,000.
The city saves over 100 million dollars because current teachers who want to take advantage of 55/25 will have to pay into the system to fund their early retirement while new hires will be required to pay pension contributions for their entire careers, not just the first ten years. The added contributions amount to a 1.85% pay cut for employees not yet hired and they won't be able retire after 25 years of service at age 55 as the contract says they should be able to; they will need 27 years. What did we get in return for allowing the city to save this huge sum of money with their de-facto new pension tier? School-wide merit pay.
In exchange for hundreds of millions in savings, couldn't the UFT have at least won back those two staff punishment days in August as days off so we can get a full summer vacation before we have to take it on the chin every year?
Challenge to our Unity readers: Please find something in this piece that shows our numbers are wrong instead of launching the usual personal attacks or saying we just complain. If you can show we are in error, we will gladly retract the article.