Looking to cut back, College offers retirement incentives

by Tatiana Cooke | 12/17/09 10:31pm

Employee-related spending at Dartmouth during the 2008-2009 fiscal year in thousands of dollars.
by Stephanie Han / The Dartmouth

During last year's budget reductions, 70 staff members left the College through a similar voluntary retirement incentive plan.

"We'd anticipate something similar this year," chief human resources officer Traci Nordberg said in an interview on Friday.

The College will negotiate with the two unions that represent Dartmouth employees the SEIU and the IATSE to extend the initiatives to unionized staff in January, Nordberg said in the announcement.

Earl Sweet, president of Dartmouth's SEIU Local 560, said in an interview that negotiations with the union did not occur when the College determined layoff packages during the last round of budget cuts. When the retirement incentive was offered last year, union members were given the option of participating at the same time as other employees and chose to participate on an individual basis, he said.

"I don't know what they're looking for this time, it just doesn't feel the same," Sweet said.

Staff members at least 55 years old who have worked at least 10 years for the College, including those individuals employed by the professional schools or holding grand-funded positions, will receive nine months' pay if they decide to retire before June 30, 2010. Eligible employees will be required to inform their supervisors in writing of their decision to participate in the plan, which is binding, by Jan. 15, 2010.

This is a shift from last year's retirement program, through which employees continued to work for six months and then were provided with six months of pay.

"Because we're trying to make significant changes before the end of this fiscal year, the amount of work time will be reduced," Nordberg said.

The retirement incentive program is intended as an option for staff members already considering retirement, Nordberg said. The extent of further, non-voluntary cuts will depend, in part, on how many employees decide to participate in the program, she said.

Employees ineligible for the retirement offer may apply for a "staff option" layoff package, in which the employee voluntarily decides to leave the College. Specific departments will decide if individual positions can be eliminated. The staff option is new and was not offered during last year's budget cuts. Staff members may also petition for a reduction in hours, Nordberg said in the announcement.

"This was in response to the employees we're not sure yet if we'll have people come forward," Nordberg said. "We had repeatedly heard both from people who called and wrote into our office and people setting up appointments to look at retirement accounts."

Non-voluntary layoffs are not likely to occur until after the February Board of Trustees meeting, Nordberg said. In addition to the benefits normally offered under the College's layoff policy, employees will be given four weeks' notice, a health care subsidy and an additional lump sum payment of two weeks' pay per year of service at Dartmouth. The payment amount will total at least four weeks' pay and is capped at 52 weeks' pay.

This layoff package will not apply to grant-funded positions or employees who are compensated by collective bargaining agreements.