Justice for TRS retirees

Updated: July 1, 2019
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June 2019: The anger was palpable as retiree after retiree testified before the Board of Trustees in December 3, 2018 and again on Monday, June 17 at a hearing at Hostos Community College. Their testimony dramatized an injustice: Scores of CUNY retirees in the NYC Teachers Retirement System (TRS) cannot collect their full pension because the CUNY Payroll Office has not provided the accurate final salary history that TRS needs to calculate each individual’s monthly payments.

TRS is also culpable, miscalculating payments to some PSC pensioners, particularly adjuncts, for whom TRS is the only pension option (and that option open only to a minority of adjuncts). Most full-timers are in TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association), yet there are still thousands who enrolled in TRS – and hundreds are victimized.

TRS is a defined benefit plan. Benefits are based on salary history, age, years of employment, and other factors. Before TRS can calculate monthly pension payments, the CUNY Payroll Office, if applicable, must provide that final “salary history” so that it includes any back pay from the 2010-17 contract owed through the 4/20/17 salary increase.

Contract ratification happened almost three years ago. CUNY Payroll has NOT provided usable and accurate “salary history” data to TRS for hundreds of retirees.

In response to testimony by TRS pensioners in December, a meeting was set up that same day with the Acting Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Margaret Egan. VC Egan was accessible and responded to every inquiry over the intervening months from retiree chapter chair, Bill Friedheim.. But the bottom line is the same: CUNY Payroll, despite a number of “data dumps,” has NOT provided fully usable and accurate “salary history” data to TRS.

As was noted at the June 17 hearing, little has changed since December, except that now we can add another 196 days to the years TRS pensioners have been waiting for their full pensions.

The TRS/CUNY Payroll debacle has not happened in a vacuum. A May 15th article in the Chief chronicled the inability of CUNY Payroll to disburse checks to more than 10,000 DC 37 workers with salary increases won in a contract ratified half a year earlier, let alone calculate retroactive pay. CUNY Payroll is a disaster area. Management must be accountable.

The TRS pensioners victimized by CUNY Payroll devoted anywhere from 20 to 50 years of their adult work lives to the City University. They have taught, inspired, counseled, advised and made a difference in the lives of what is arguably the most diverse student body in the United States. By our calculation, that is cumulatively thousands of years of steadfast, hard work. Rather than gratitude from the university they served, they must wait -- in some cases years -- to enjoy the fruits of a well-earned retirement,

Those testifying demanded that the Board and Chancellor broker a meeting between CUNY, TRS and the PSC to resolve this crisis. TRS pensioners demand justice.—and the PSC will intensify pressure on CUNY and TRS until that happens