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Public Employee Press
Cultural Institutions Retirement System
Negotiations save cultural workers pension
These negotiations were very tense, but we managed to meet our goal of maintaining the retirement security of our members."
—David Paskin, Director, DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept.
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
AFSCME District Council 1707 approved an agreement to protect the pension of workers at city cultural institutions and day-care centers.
The DC 1707 vote came in late September, a few weeks after DC 37 members voted to support the plan.
The Cultural Institutions Retirement Systems (CIRS) agreement was certified on Sept. 28, ensuring that workers will continue to be covered by a traditional pension plan that guarantees they will receive lifetime retirement payments based on their salary and years of service.
The negotiations between the unions and employer representatives, the Cultural Institutions Group and the Day Care Council of New York, occurred as the plan appeared to be headed into a "critical status."
The classification would have allowed the pension trustees to impose deep benefit modifications or even close the plan.
"We have breathed a collective sigh of relief," said David Paskin, director of the DC 37 Research and Negotiations Dept., who led the talks on the agreement with the union's executive director, Henry Garrido.
"These negotiations were very tense, but we managed to meet our goal of maintaining the retirement security of our members," Paskin said.
The agreement ensures that the 9,000 current workers - including 1,200 DC 37 members - will still be able to retire at 62 and not have to make contributions to the pension fund.
But to ensure the long-term health of the plan, the agreement establishes a second tier for new workers.
Most future employees will have a retirement age of 64 and be required to contribute 2 percent of their salary toward their pension.
Employees with salaries exceeding $70,000 - primarily managers - will have to make a 2.5 percent contribution and employees with salaries over $100,000 must contribute 3 percent. The DC 37 bargaining team insisted that higher-paid employees contribute more than workers with more modest salaries.
The agreement also permits current employees to discontinue making a minimum 2 percent mandatory contribution to their 401(k) accounts, starting next year. New employees will be able to choose not to participate in the 401(k) plan.
The pension plan covers DC 37 members who are in Wildlife Conservation Society Local 1501, American Museum of Natural History Local 1559, Quasi-Public Employees Local 374, Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1502 and American Museum of Natural History 1306.