On January 4, UMass intends to send letters to individual employees affected by the Retirement Contribution Error, explaining the mistake and saying that they will be correctly deducting retirement contributions going forward.
In addition, if you are one of the affected employees, the letter will tell you how much UMass thinks should have been deducted for you in the past, but wasn't. This will just be an estimate and, more importantly, it is not yet decided whether you will have to repay it all. You can consider this estimate a worst-case scenario.
SHARE is working to reduce or eliminate the amount employees have to repay. We, along with almost 30 other UMass unions, are trying several lines of argument. Winning on the first argument would completely solve the problem. If the first argument doesn't work, the other ones will help reduce the amounts employees owe:
First, SHARE and the other UMass unions are trying to prevent UMass from collecting it. The University made the mistake, for years. It is not your mistake, or the mistake of any of the other employees who are affected. We think UMass should pay it to the Retirement Board and not collect it from employees at all.
Second, we would like the Retirement Board to simply forgive some of it. It would be a lot of work for them to go chasing people for just a few dollars. There has been a lot of discussion about setting a number below which people wouldn't have to pay anything back. We would like that number to be as big as possible - like $1,000 - so that most people (those who "owe" less than $1,000) wouldn’t be affected at all. The Retirement Board seemed open to the basic idea of setting a number, but might only agree to a smaller amount, like one hundred dollars. That is still being discussed.
Third, we would like the Retirement Board to go back only 5 years, not all the way to 2002. When people retire, their pension is based on the highest 5 years. We do want all the money people earned to count toward their pension, so fixing those 5 years may be important, but it will not help anyone if they fix their pension contributions from before that. The Retirement Board should have caught this years ago. We see no reason to go back to 2002.
Fourth, there are some categories of pay that we think should not be included at all. SHARE has been in touch with UMass HR to clarify these:
Holiday Pay will NOT be included.
We believe that Animal Medicine Technician Certification Pay should not be included either, because it is not a regular payment, but only happens occasionally when a Tech passes a new certification exam. This is still being discussed.
There is another Retirement Board meeting toward the end of January (which we will attend, like the last two), so we will know more after that. And in the meantime, the unions have sent a letter to the subcommittee that is looking into this situation, asking to meet about why we think employees shouldn't have to pay. We will keep you informed.