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UI officials offering early retirement

BY GRACE PATERAS | MARCH 12, 2015 5:00 AM

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Retirement is coming early for at least 43 University of Iowa employees, and there could be hundreds more.

The UI is offering an early retirement program, and more than 1,400 employees are eligible to apply. Thus far, 362 — not quite 26 percent — have. March 6 was the final day for applications to be submitted. As of now, 43 early retirements have been approved.

It is a program designed to thin-out certain departments so the UI can grow others.

“The cost savings is a very important piece. Also, there are areas they want to reduce in size, or grow other areas,” said Richard Saunders, the UI assistant vice president for Human Resources. “There is no one reason that generates something like this.”

Under the plan, which was approved by the state Board of Regents in February, employees had to be at least 57 years old and have at least 10 years of continuous, benefit-eligible employment to apply.

Saunders said that percentage is consistent with previous early retirement initiatives that the UI offered in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Though there is not a set number of applicants who will be approved, 43 have been notified of their acceptance.

Others will be notified by mid-April as the applications are reviewed and decided by Sue Buckley, the UI vice president for Human Resources, by the end of March, Saunders said.

The applicants came from across various departments.

The approval process is long and goes through a series of decision-makers, all analyzing how much money, and how many benefits, the university could save by offering retirement.

If applicants are approved, they have until June 30 to retire.

The initial conversation occurred with the deans between various colleges. Saunders said they thought it was a good time to offer another early retirement plan.

The UI Hospitals and Clinics health-care staff and faculty were not eligible to apply for the early retirement program because they are in a growth phase, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

“We will open the new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital next year, and we are going to need more staff, and so we are hoping to encourage our highly experienced and skilled veterans to stay with us because we will need them,” he said. “We will need their expertise, and we will need their very great abilities to help care for the increased number of patients we’re soon to be expecting.”

Zach Peterson, a representative from Service Employees International Union, said most university employees are funded through tax dollars, and UIHC employees are funded through patient money, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance.

Because the university is looking to retire people in jobs they wouldn’t have to replace, having UIHC included in this initiative would not be beneficial for the university, Peterson said.

“The UIHC does not have a budgetary issue,” he said. “The UIHC is very financially strong right now, even if the university isn’t.”

UIHC employees include management, health-care professionals, ITC, and all others paid through the hospitals.

Besides the growth period for finding employees for the upcoming new Children’s Hospital, Peterson said their work is indispensable.

“Part of the university early retirement plan is for people that the university is okay with not replacing,” Peterson said. “The work our members do is so important, the university can’t afford to lose those jobs.”

However, the experience the university has had with similar early retirement initiatives allowed the early retirement initiative process to go as expected.

“It was very smooth so far because we’ve had numerous retirement plans in the past,” Saunders said. “The process works very smoothly.”


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