University of Puerto Rico retirees: Stop killing our retirement plan
SAN JUAN – The Collective of Pensioners of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) protested Tuesday, against the island’s fiscal oversight board and the school’s governing board, claiming that these are looking to eliminate the university’s defined benefit pension plan and retirement trust.
“Despite the economic stability of the Retirement Plan of the UPR, the two boards ordered its closure, the elimination of the benefits acquired so far and the reduction of the payment of pensions dramatically. To implement these actions, the Governing Board has already hired the firm BDO Puerto Rico at a cost of $300,000 in order to immediately begin the process of dismantling the Defined Benefits Plan,” Retirement Board Chairman Eduardo Berríos Torres said in a joint statement with other union leaders.
“Today we call upon the Governing Board and the Fiscal Control Board to stop their plans to close / freeze the Defined Benefit Retirement Plan and replace it with a Defined Contribution Plan,” he said, adding that “the Retirement Board will keep its commitment to continue its fight in defense of the Defined Benefits Retirement Plan. This is the only way we ensure a dignified life in our old age. We will not allow the product of so many years of service and dedication to the University of Puerto Rico to be taken from us, placing us at a level of poverty and absolute dependence,” he added.
The president of the Association of Retirees of the UPR, Dr. Marcos López Reyes, said that “the Fiscal Control Board has been indifferent to the reality” of Puerto Rico retirees. He added that “the effect of affecting Retirement Systems and pensions will distance them from complying with the provisions of Promesa,” the acronym for the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.
The vice president of the Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teaching Employees (HEEND by its Spanish initials), José Torres Rosario, said that “the actions of the Fiscal Control Board and the UPR Governing Board on the retirement system are a violation of the collective bargaining agreement of employees and is part of an entire plan, which includes the elimination of other rights such as exemptions and tuition increases, to destabilize the country’s main secondary education institution.
“Their intention is to destroy the public university to deliver it in pieces to their friends and donors in the private sector. In the Brotherhood, we will not allow it. We will defend the University because it is the most important patrimony of the people.”
Norma Rodríguez, president of the Retirees of the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (Appu by its Spanish acronym), said, “the actions and omissions of both boards will have dire and devastating consequences on the lives of the 19,000 participants of the UPR’s retirement system and their families. The misfortune of more than 60,000 people will fall on their…conscience if they do not act to stop the barbarity and madness proposed! You are the only ones responsible for the emotional anguish of today, and the poverty and misery of us and our families tomorrow. What’s not broken, is not disturbed! Our pension system is solvent.”
The group said the “dismantling of the retirement plan” would result in the UPR’s Retirement Trust becoming insolvent in less than 25 years, and that “freezing of defined benefits would cause the bankruptcy of the UPR and would require it to dispose of its assets to pay” the pensioners.
It reiterated that the defined benefits plan is solvent and has $1.4 billion in equity, “separate from the assets of the UPR. In addition,” and that “closing the current Pension Plan is a breach of the contract that was signed with the UPR.”