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Departments prepare to slash working retirees

Posted 7 years 63 days ago ago by newspaper editor    9 Comments  -3 Likes Like Dislike

State Worker Sacramento Bee June 21, 2012

The Brown administration has put out the word: Departments, get ready to whack your working retirees.

The official term for the 5,800 or so state workers who draw both a pension and a paycheck is "retired annuitants." Sometimes they're tagged "double dippers." State workers occasionally refer to them as "retired irritants."

Gov. Jerry Brown has departments thinking about how to eliminate all retired annuitants except those in "mission critical" jobs. The idea enjoys near-universal acclaim.

Still, there are some holes in the arguments of the various proponents.

State employee unions love it because, in theory anyway, jobs now filled by retirees would go to the dues-paying rank and file.

Yet state retirees can work only six months per fiscal year before it affects their pensions. Many work far less on short-term projects or seasonal jobs. Even assuming that every state retired annuitant worked the full 960 hours allowed by law and that all those jobs could be miraculously combined, the result would be just 2,900 full-time positions, a fraction of the 214,000 state-employee workforce.

The unions have always opposed outsourcing state jobs – from prison guards to computer programmers – claiming that privatizing hangs a higher cost on the government. The hourly rate for a contract lawyer, for example, can run 10 times what a state attorney earns.

But when it comes to recycling retirees, the unions don't argue cost. Retirees are undeniably the cheaper option.

Meanwhile, pension reformers, normally at loggerheads with organized labor, also want to take away double dippers' ladles.

This is a big issue for local governments, as are pension costs in general. It doesn't exactly save as much for the state, however, as reformers might imply. California spent just 7 cents of every $10 of payroll last year on retired annuitants. Their median pay: $17,000.

California State Retirees President Susan Sears has entered the fray, arguing retirees are a cheap source of experienced and knowledgable staff.

"To virtually eliminate the entire annuitant program may be penny wise in the short run, but it is pound foolish in the long run," Sears said in a Tuesday news release.

That argument, too, has a hole: It ignores the fact that the program has become a substitute for sound training and succession planning. It leaves jobs that are ostensibly vital to a corps of rented employees who can be easily fired – and who can more easily fire their employer.

As departments face cutting their retirees, perhaps they should ask themselves, "How did we become so dependent on them in the first place?"

Still, the convergence of opinion makes the stance a rare twofer for Brown. Organized labor gets something to check off its wish list. The governor can claim a little street cred as a cost cutter while selling a November tax hike measure to voters.





9 Comments



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  • rjaime 6 years 269 days ago
    I think having RA's is a good idea. It saves the state money, in that these are individuals who don't require benefits and they are experienced state workers. I retired early due to feeling sick, and after having seen two co-workers die the previous two years at an early age, before being able to retire. The Dr. discovered afterwards it was due to side effects from a medication. My pension was not enough to make ends meet and working as an R.A. helped me to support my family. I gave 25 years of high quality service and believed that as long as I worked hard, that I could work as an R.A. until Social Security kicked in. I had no rights and was let go suddenly due to management taking advantage of the situation. I never felt I was a double dipper, I was just making ends meet. I was let go for an employee who worked 40 years, was recieving her full paycheck for pension, plus social security and the R.A. position. I have since been struggling to not lose everything I worked for, my entire career. R.A's put up with many injustices and should be appreciated and not eliminated for political reasons, or to express favoritism on the part of management.

    Reply
  • Jim Evert 7 years 41 days ago
    Personally, the RA system is just taking jobs away from new employees. What SHOULD be happening prior to anyone retiring, is the Administration should seek a replacement, and allow the retiring person a chance to train the in-coming employee. Look at the plusses for this mentality: it would afford the employee some time with the existing professional for a particular position, and, someone to ask important questions BEFORE they retire. WIN-WIN and even though the State may have to pay for TWO people in a position for a limited time, (say, no more than 2 weeks, for example), the profit of doing business this way will be nothing-but-fantastic for the future.

    Reply
  • Watercolor Artist 7 years 58 days ago
    I argue with Frank that Retiree Annuitants are cheaper than consultants. I was an annuitant two times, but the jobs were ones that most people would not want. Now, I don't get any more calls, which is just fine with me. Jerry is cutting Annuitants for show. He can cut them anytime to same money, but he wants people to see that he is cutting to save. He should man up and start cutting more of the programs that cost the State and don't bring in money. They like to add on more programs without having the funding source established.

    Reply
    • Frank Weinstein 7 years 54 days ago
      My point about RA's being cheaper than consultants had to do with overhead. I don't know if it's true for all consultants, but some work through agencies. Agencies have overhead. The consultant gets paid, but so does the agency. Sometimes it's through contracts with big companies like HP or IBM. With RA's, there's no additional pay to the agency. I agree with Watercolor that Jerry is cutting RA's for show. Furloughs don't save money, either. If it takes a certain amount of time to accomplish task A, furloughing workers only means that fewer task A's get accomplished. Fewer task A's result in backlogs, which can result in overtime, which would actually cost the State more than just letting the workers do their thing.

      Reply
  • Frank Weinstein 7 years 59 days ago
    "...That argument, too, has a hole: It ignores the fact that the program has become a substitute for sound training and succession planning. It leaves jobs that are ostensibly vital to a corps of rented employees who can be easily fired – and who can more easily fire their employer...." That's not an accurate statement. A lot of RA's are hired to train other full time workers. They are essentially hired to train their replacements. Because of furloughs, a lot of employees retired with short notice...they would make as much by retiring as to keep working. Can you blame them? Those retirements caused a shortage of trained workers. There's little difference between hiring RA's and consultants except for the fact that RA's already have necessary skills for doing certain functions needed by the state and RA's don't cost the state anything except for their wages. With consultants, the state pays the employing personnel agency over and above what the consultant makes. The state should be hiring more RA's instead of getting rid of them. They are cost effective. I was a union member for 30 years. I willingly paid my dues and supported the union (and I still support them) because of the benefits I received from their representation. While I supported and still support the union, I was disappointed in Yvonne Walker telling all retired workers that they can get lost. Please note that she's also telling current workers that they can also get lost when they retire. I hope that when Yvonne retires, she comes back as an RA.

    Reply
  • Frank Weinstein 7 years 59 days ago
    "...That argument, too, has a hole: It ignores the fact that the program has become a substitute for sound training and succession planning. It leaves jobs that are ostensibly vital to a corps of rented employees who can be easily fired – and who can more easily fire their employer...." That's not an accurate statement. A lot of RA's are hired to train other full time workers. They are essentially hired to train their replacements. Because of furloughs, a lot of employees retired with short notice...they would make as much by retiring as to keep working. Can you blame them? Those retirements caused a shortage of trained workers. There's little difference between hiring RA's and consultants except for the fact that RA's already have necessary skills for doing certain functions needed by the state and RA's don't cost the state anything except for their wages. With consultants, the state pays the employing personnel agency over and above what the consultant makes. The state should be hiring more RA's instead of getting rid of them. They are cost effective. I was a union member for 30 years. I willingly paid my dues and supported the union (and I still support them) because of the benefits I received from their representation. While I supported and still support the union, I was disappointed in Yvonne Walker telling all retired workers that they can get lost. Please note that she's also telling current workers that they can also get lost when they retire. I hope that when Yvonne retires, she comes back as an RA.

    Reply
  • Frank Weinstein 7 years 59 days ago
    "...That argument, too, has a hole: It ignores the fact that the program has become a substitute for sound training and succession planning. It leaves jobs that are ostensibly vital to a corps of rented employees who can be easily fired – and who can more easily fire their employer...." That's not an accurate statement. A lot of RA's are hired to train other full time workers. They are essentially hired to train their replacements. Because of furloughs, a lot of employees retired with short notice...they would make as much by retiring as to keep working. Can you blame them? Those retirements caused a shortage of trained workers. There's little difference between hiring RA's and consultants except for the fact that RA's already have necessary skills for doing certain functions needed by the state and RA's don't cost the state anything except for their wages. With consultants, the state pays the employing personnel agency over and above what the consultant makes. The state should be hiring more RA's instead of getting rid of them. They are cost effective. I was a union member for 30 years. I willingly paid my dues and supported the union (and I still support them) because of the benefits I received from their representation. While I supported and still support the union, I was disappointed in Yvonne Walker telling all retired workers that they can get lost. Please note that she's also telling current workers that they can also get lost when they retire. I hope that when Yvonne retires, she comes back as an RA.

    Reply
  • Frank Weinstein 7 years 59 days ago
    "...That argument, too, has a hole: It ignores the fact that the program has become a substitute for sound training and succession planning. It leaves jobs that are ostensibly vital to a corps of rented employees who can be easily fired – and who can more easily fire their employer...." That's not an accurate statement. A lot of RA's are hired to train other full time workers. They are essentially hired to train their replacements. Because of furloughs, a lot of employees retired with short notice...they would make as much by retiring as to keep working. Can you blame them? Those retirements caused a shortage of trained workers. There's little difference between hiring RA's and consultants except for the fact that RA's already have necessary skills for doing certain functions needed by the state and RA's don't cost the state anything except for their wages. With consultants, the state pays the employing personnel agency over and above what the consultant makes. The state should be hiring more RA's instead of getting rid of them. They are cost effective. I was a union member for 30 years. I willingly paid my dues and supported the union (and I still support them) because of the benefits I received from their representation. While I supported and still support the union, I was disappointed in Yvonne Walker telling all retired workers that they can get lost. Please note that she's also telling current workers that they can also get lost when they retire. I hope that when Yvonne retires, she comes back as an RA.

    Reply
  • Watercolor Artist 7 years 59 days ago
    If Jerry needs to save money, may be it is time that the retirees stop working and let those who want full time work do the job. Besides, he can cut the annuitants before the full time employee. Also, may be this will save on him cutting back the wages on the full time employees and cutting back their time. It was the top government people who made both bought power from Enron and their stock. That is why we are still in this situation.

    Reply
  • Watercolor Artist 7 years 60 days ago
    State should look closer at what they are doing. Some retiree annuitants do simple jobs for short periods of time. These short jobs would not fund a full time position. And, some of these retirees are not getting full retirement, so they need the extra money. Also, there are some jobs that either no one else knows how to do or have not been trained on or no one else wants to do that only a retiree can do. However, cutting out annuitants is not the answer to the budget short fall. Major programs that are funded from the general fund that only apply to a small specific group and cost of millions of dollars should be cut out. Cutting some groups like annuitants is micro managing and only saving a small amount of money. Cutting back or cutting out programs is the only way to balance they budget. If they think retirees are double dipping, they should cut out the paying the legislators extra for showing up to the State Capitol meetings that they are already paid to do. If Jerry is so concerned about double dipping, how many retirements is he getting and wasn't he already Governor before? Jerry was our friend before, but now he wants a fight. He has not respect for his senior citizens. We can play that same game. We can look close at what bills he wants past and if we don't like them then we will stop them. He has made the wrong enemy. If he wants war, he should watch out for who is crosses. If any of his friends or relatives want to run for office, we can block them. No more Jerry and no more Browns in office.

    Reply
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