MU faculty members protest against retiree changes

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COLUMBIA — Faculty members reacted to the changes to retiree insurance recently decided by the UM System Board of Curators.

Several faculty members brought signs to the south side of Jesse Hall Friday to show their opinion on changing the retiree health benefits. The signs had several messages such as "MU, stop disrupting our lives!" and "Give me my health care back!"

Karen Piper, an english professor at MU for the last 20 years, organized the protest by sending out an email and posting an update about it on her personal Facebook. However, she doesn’t expect much to happen after the protest.

“I had to do something," Piper said. "I can’t say nothing. That is all I’m hoping to get out of it."

The changes will limit medical benefits for a large part of the retirees of UM System starting from 2018.

At that point an employee must be benefits-eligible with at least five years of service prior to January 1, 2018 to get benefits. The person must also be at least 60 years of age and have at least 20 years of service to the UM System on the date of retirement.

An employee will receive the same percentage subsidy as previous retirees if their age and years of service add up to 80 or more. If it adds up to less, the employee will get an annual subsidy of $100 per year of service up to $2,500 annually. 

In an email to employees, UM System Interim President Michael Middleton focused on securing some benefits for most of the staff.

“With these changes, the UM System maintains our commitment to fiscal responsibility while respecting the very real needs of our faculty and staff. The changes place us on a path to reducing projected liabilities by over $5 billion by 2050, while preserving access to UM retiree insurance for more than three quarters of our employees,” it said.

But the focus on reducing liabilities isn’t a great argument according to Karen Piper.

“They say, they are saving $5 billion," Piper said. "But they are taking those $5 billion from us."

UM System Board of Curators voted to approve the changes this Thursday.

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