Easing Pension Tension

UNIVERSITY ISSUES The university's work thus far to establish a long-term plan for pension contributions shows promising collaboration.

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In the university's pension debate where tensions run high and stakes are higher, it appears that the UC Board of Regents and UC President Mark Yudof are making positive steps forward. Although this is a contentious topic, we are glad to see that collaboration is a visible part of the process.

Employees resumed contributions, starting at 2 percent of their salaries, to the pension program in April after almost a 20-year hiatus. If a long-standing model of sustaining the fund is not established, the university could face $20 billion in unfunded liabilities by 2014.

A university task force presented two models that Yudof could choose for the UC Retirement Plan. On Tuesday, Yudof announced that he would back a modified version of a third approach, described by some as a "dissenting opinion," that was authored by faculty and staff members who worked on the task force. Under this plan, employee contributions would rise to 7 percent.

The regents are not scheduled to make their final decision until a special meeting in December and it is unclear exactly how Yudof will modify the "dissenting opinion" recommendations. However, the fact that Yudof considered, let alone accepted the third option compiled by university faculty and staff reflects an openness to employee opinions. While this is probably the most strategic move for Yudof to encounter the least amount of possible resistance, it is still heartening to see that these external opinions matter and can make a difference in policy.

This inclusion is similar to the feedback Yudof asked for from employees two summers ago before implementing the furlough system. We hope to see similar transparent collaborations in the future.

Furthermore, while the plan is opposed by some union members, it is worth noting that faculty leadership is in support of these specific contributions. Under the proposal, employees hired after July 1, 2013 will pay the higher contributions - a feature critics say will divide the worker community. We do not agree with this reasoning and think faculty leaders are wise to recognize the necessity of this plan. Let us move forward and get back on the right, collaborative and contributory track.

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