In a surprise announcement, postal management has invoked a targeted Voluntary Early Retirement (VER), limited to the Newark, NJ geographic area, with no monetary incentive and limited to employees in particular crafts and jobs.
“The union is deeply disturbed that this announcement was made with virtually no advance notification to the APWU, either at the national level or with the local union leaders in the impacted facilities,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “This lack of communication, lack of opportunity for the union to negotiate over these changes and the scope of this VER, what crafts are eligible and whether there should be monetary incentives is outrageous. Their disrespect for the union and postal workers, and their refusal to bargain, has been met with immediate demands for bargaining, information requests, unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB and will be followed up with appropriate grievances.”
In the meantime, those employees who are offered VER opportunities by management may have many questions as to whether to accept early retirement. It is not the place of the national APWU to give advice on whether to retire or not. That is a personal decision. However, it is a decision with implications that members should know and consider.
If you are eligible for the VER, the USPS should be mailing you a packet. The packet will have vital information about your opportunity for an early-out. The packet should include your annuity estimate (this is not a guarantee of what your annuity payments will be; OPM makes the final determination of your annuity, and it could be different than the estimated amount provided in your packet), and information about available benefits including eligibility, limits, and costs. Anyone considering the early-out offer needs to study the packet.
Impacted workers are also eligible for USPS-sponsored retirement counseling – both group and individual. Information on who to contact and how to arrange counseling should also be in the packet. The packet, along with your counseling session(s), will explain eligibility for any annuity supplement, your health insurance premiums, how your FEGLI life insurance can change, and other issues. According to a previous grievance settlement with the APWU, local management must arrange a reasonably private space for employees who wish to receive individual counseling on the clock. Your spouse can participate in the counseling session(s). Take advantage of every opportunity to learn the specifics about your retirement benefits.
Some points to consider when making your decision:
- As of now, there is no financial incentive to retire early, unlike the 2009 and 2012 VERAs, where incentives were negotiated with the APWU.
- Those who apply for the early-out will see financial/income impacts, including:
- FERS covered employees earn 1% of salary as an annuity for each year worked (e.g. if you worked 20 years, your annuity will be 20% of your high-3 average salary). Leaving early will impact your total retirement benefits.
- If you are under the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), you will not receive the Social Security Supplement until you reach the MRA. Find your MRA using this OPM Chart. FERS is a three-legged stool: a modest annuity, social security, and retirement savings in TSP. Under normal conditions, if you retire after reaching the MRA but are not yet eligible for Social Security, you receive an “annuity supplement” to provide that social security leg until you reach the age of sixty-two (62). An “early-out” is different; so, for example, if you are age 50 and your MRA is 57, you will not receive the supplement until you turn age 57.
- Under FERS, you will not receive Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) on your annuity until age 62.
- With an early retirement, you can’t make additional contributions to TSP or receive employer contributions as you would with continued employment.
- TSP withdrawal restrictions are not eased for those accepting a VERA.
- Your life insurance coverage (FEGLI) may change. The amounts of coverage may decrease and the costs (if you continue coverage) will likely rise.
- Your health insurance premiums will increase if you currently are covered by the Consumer Driven APWU health plan.
Make your decision on complete and accurate information about your retirement benefits.