RE: It Will Cost You More to Buy Time

This is an editorial from a members response to It Will Cost You More to Buy Time

This service purchase issue has been a crippling concern for me. I am 43 years old and have 23 years with the County. It has been my life plan to retire with 25 years and to purchase my last five. I don’t believe the price of this purchase has changed much in this entire time. I have diligently put money into my 401k account to be able to afford this purchase over the years.

As an Appraiser, it has always been known that more money could be made in private industry. MUCH more. However, the value of a set work week, vacation and sick pay, insurance and the retirement benefit must be weighed in making the decision to stay with the County. I have remained with the weighing factor of these promised benefits for 23 years.

It is my understanding that the new cost of the service purchase will price me out of my life plan? I have spoken to numerous people at URS and even a board member Jay Blaine with UEA. The URS office has been less than forthcoming with the actual costs among other things and one employee even had the audacity to tell me that I should just put more money in my 401k account to make up the difference. Depending on who you are speaking to, it is said that the purchase could increase between 50% to over 100%. As if I could save another $100,000 or more in two years?

Mr. Blaine told me that they agreed to a 3 tier implementation with a 33% increase each January 1st and full implementation in January 2013. My plan was to retire towards the end of 2012 so my purchase would be affected 66% of the increase. Still, as you can imagine, given the bleak rumors of the price of the increase, this will be more than I have in my account.

I am floored by the fact that NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT THIS! No one is talking about this and the people involved seem to be keeping it quiet. Why? Is there something that can still be done? Why was this done so secretly? Mr. Blaine said it was allowable due to language in a “clean up bill” HB 233. Why was this not noticed or discussed with the public? Another person from URS implied that this benefit was one of many things offered to be “given up to save the continued retirement benefit”. Really?? Is there more?

The URS covers:

* Public Employees’ Contributory Retirement System
* Noncontributory Retirement System
* Public Safety Retirement Systems
* Firefighters’ Retirement System
* Judges’ Retirement Systems
* Governor’s and Legislative Service Pension Plan
* 401(k) and 457 Defined Contribution Plan
* Public Employee’s Health Program (PEHP)

Are all of these plans affected the same? I was told that Public Safety and Firefighters are not offered the future service purchase however they are eligible for full retirement at earlier age and less time served.

People seem to be less than sympathetic to my case due to my age. What’s 5 more years? I am here to tell you it’s 5 years in the prime of my life. It’s 5 years with my young children. It’s five years that are EXTREMELY valuable to me and the URS wants to capitalize on my personal value. Why should I be penalized for the foresight of starting at an early age? Why should someone who started at age 40 receive a higher benefit than me? Why are my 25 years of service of less value than someone else?

This is beyond unfair and seems completely discriminatory. I was promised a benefit that I have worked for, planned for and saved for to have it yanked out from underneath me 2 years from the end of my employ seems criminal and at the very least cruel.

CEO Wages are hurting today’s economy

Editorial
Gerald Haskell
UAGE Staff Representative

I was recently on a chat board talking union and one comment said “Unions have had their time and place”. Oddly enough I agree with that comment to a point.  They did have their time and place, however, their time is now and their place is here.  Workers in Utah, both private and public need to step up and start looking into their future and the future of their families.  We are all too focused on the now in economic times.  We don’t have time to look to next year, ten years, and on to our retirement.  We are too busy working over time, two jobs, and what else we can do to stretch that dollar out this month.

Moving  toward the future means we all begin working together to examine where we work. Are we being treated fairly?  Are the wages fair for the market- and the company we work for.  If your CEO or other Officers and owners are making 100 times that of the average employee then the likelihood is low that our wages are fair.

For public employees we must do the same.  In general most public employees were working for lower wages and better benefits than their counterparts in the private sector.  That is quickly changing, co-payments for insurance are rising, new hires have lost the retirement we have, we lost our ability to convert sick time when we retire.  Some of us already lost merit status and that bill will rear its ugly head again.

All employees, both private and public have not seen real wage increases for 25 Year according to the Doug Wright show on KSL.   On KSL’s Doug Wright show, Thursday July 8, 2010, they said over the last 25 years the average for middle class workers wages have increased 7% while some CEO pay has increased up to 800%. Click here to listen to audio While Union membership has declined, wages and benefits have followed. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor ) The profits have shifted over to the CEO’s pocketbooks.

We must work together to turn this around.    One of the largest hurdles we must overcome is misinformation being spread by those who are anti-union – generally, programs funded by corporations trying to silence us.  They say things like, union dues are being sent right to the union bosses, look how much you could save by not paying union dues, and that unions control your lives.

This is all un-true – the union bosses being referred to are your co-workers, union leaders in UAGE are elected by you and the other members.  It’s the members that run our union, not some faceless mobster in Nevada.  When you compare what we have lost as workers compared to the union dues we pay, it cost us more not to pay union dues.  And the union control over you….  You are the union along with your co-workers; you control the union, not the other way around.

This is just a small sampling of what is being said but the facts speak for themselves.  By bargaining collectively, union members are able to negotiate higher wages. Union members earn 28 percent more than nonunion members. The union wage benefit is greatest for people of color and women. Latino union workers earn 50 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. Union women earn 34 percent more than nonunion women. For African Americans, the union advantage is 29 percent. The union advantage for white male workers is 21 percent. For Asian American workers the union advantage is 4 percent. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Now is the time that we can restore the middle class, working together on common goals will put America back in perspective and strengthen the future of America workers, therefore strengthen the future of America.

To get involved or get more information please contact UAGE at uageadmin@uagecwa.net or call us at 801-483-1200

It Will Cost You More to Buy Time

Several UAGE members have called to inquire about the how and why of the Utah Retirement System’s (URS) plan to raise the cost of purchasing years of service.  Probably at no time in the history of the ability to buy time, has that benefit been more important.

Layoffs and Reductions in Force are causing a flood of questions with no direct answers.

Beginning January 1, 2011 and continuing for two years, URS will implement a phased in increase in costs – but the “how much” is unclear.

UAGE spoke with a representative of URS, Judy Lund and got what we think is the clearest answer to this difficult issue.  Each inquiry is different – Individualized.  If two people, both 50 years old and making the same salary asks about costs but one has twenty five years of service and one has thirty, the one with thirty will pay less for their purchase than the one with twenty five.  The “value” of purchasing time will be based on how much service the person has in the system.  Also the younger you are the more the purchase price will be.   What wasn’t clear is how much more either of those people will pay between the current cost and what happens after January 1st.

URS is putting a calculator on their website and hope to have that up and running within two weeks.  Testing of current programs is underway.  Contact the Defined Benefits/Retirement Division of URS at 801-366-7700 for help with cost estimations.

The calculator will allow you to calculate the difference between what a buy out will cost today versus one in 2015 or 2020.   A variety of scenarios can be put to the test giving you a better look at your options.

Two UAGE members have urgent or need –to- know –right- now problems.  Ms. Lund graciously offered to handle their situations personally.   If you or someone you know is in a critical situation and needs answers about purchasing years of service contact our office 801-483-1200 office or email uageadmin@uagecwa.net for a direct telephone number.

If you have a story you would like to share with UAGE members please email us at uageadmin@uagecwa.net .

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