How to respond to eroding pay and benefits?

In case you missed it, UC Berkeley Faculty Association co-chairs Coleen Lye and James Vernon have penned a sobering letter to their colleagues across the UC system.  It’s time to wake up and take notice of the piecemeal erosion of our pay and benefits, they say.  More specifically:

  • Despite modest pay bumps in 2011 and 2013, increases in pension and health insurance payments mean our take home pay is going down.
  • The new two-tiered pension means faculty hired after 2013 get less generous retirement benefits for roughly the same cost as everyone else
  • Current retirees are now paying 30% of the cost of their health insurance and in future retirees will pay much more.
  • Changes to the health plans represents an additional erosion of benefits and as-yet unclear possible cost increases.

Meanwhile, Lye and Vernon point out that other groups of UC employees have been able to put a halt to similar changes.  For instance, unionized nurses and patient care workers negotiated contracts that maintain their single tier pension and retiree health benefits.

How UC faculty will respond to these developments is still an open question. Lye and Vernon ask “Will we seek better mechanisms that would permit faculty to negotiate all elements of our compensation rather than have it decreed — and diminished — from up high?”  Or grumble to ourselves while we scan the job boards looking for an outside offer?