A guide for USA members – provided by the University Staff Association And Massachusetts Teachers Association
This document is designed to provide assistance to USA/MTA unit members who have received notice that their positions are being cut. It has been revised from a previous version and updated to reflect the current state of the law and the USA collective bargaining provisions. In it are answers to the most commonly asked questions and guidelines for dealing with the prospect of a job loss.
The rights outlined in this pamphlet belong to each individual, but please remember these rights are not given – they must be asserted. The USA and MTA, however, are here to assist you in any way we can throughout this process.
|Robert E. Whalen
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Planning Your Job Search
Appendix A: Stewards
Appendix B: Article 22(G) Letter
As a member of the USA/MTA Bargaining Unit, you are provided contractual rights which are detailed in the collective bargaining agreement between the USA/MTA and the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts.
Your rights pertaining to a layoff are provided in Article 22 Layoff and Recall of the Agreement. In the event you are notified (formally or informally) of a potential layoff, you should immediately contact your USA Steward.
The following is a summation of the Article 22 provisions:
APPLICATION (Article 22(A))
All USA/MTA unit members, except those paid from grant, contract or institute funds, are covered by Article 22. (The aforementioned excluded employees have limited rights under Article 22 that are outlined at the end of this summary.)
The terms of Article 22 do not apply to probationary employees.
USA/MTA unit members can be laid off due to lack of work, lack of funds or curtailment of programs.
NOTIFICATION (Article 22(H))
Article 22(H) requires the University to notify unit members, in writing, at least thirty (30) days in advance of a pending layoff.
SENIORITY (Article 22(C))
Layoffs must be conducted by job classification on the basis of the unit member’s campus seniority, provided the employee retained has the ability to perform the job.
BUMPING RIGHTS (Article 22(F))
When a unit member (non-probationary) is scheduled to be laid off, she or he shall have the ability to “bump” one of the three least senior positions as follows:
- First, in her or his current classification;
- Second, in a lower graded position she or he has held on campus; and
- Third, in a position where the regular duties are basically similar to those of the employee’s present position.
The employee must be able to perform the duties of the position into which they wish to bump after a standard orientation period.
PREFERED STATUS FOR VACANT POSITIONS (Article 22(G))
When an unit member is scheduled to be laid off or is on layoff status, the member’s name will be forwarded for any vacant positions in an equal or lower-graded classification, prior to the terms of Article 17 (Vacancies and Promotions) being applicable. Campus seniority will prevail in filling vacancies, provided the employee can perform the duties of the position. A sample letter members need to submit to exert this right can be found at Appendix B.
RECALL (Article 22(D))
Laid-off unit members shall be recalled into available jobs in their classification on the basis of campus seniority, provided they have the ability to perform the required job duties. Unit members shall remain on the recall list for two (2) years.
Unit members who would have been laid off but for the fact that they accepted a lower graded position (under Article 22(F) or (G)), shall be recalled to available positions in the job classification from which they were laid off, based on campus seniority and provided they can perform the required job duties. Unit members in this category shall remain on recall list for a one (1) year.
RETRAINING (Article 22(I))
The University is obligated to make every effort to provide preferential treatment to affected employees for retraining opportunities offered by the University during the layoff period.
RIGHTS OF GRANT, CONTRACT, AND INSTITUTE FUNDED POSITIONS
Unit members holding positions funded by grant, contract or institute funds must receive thirty (30) days notice of an impending layoff, unless a predetermined date for the end of employment has been established.
They shall remain in the campus call back pool for two (2) years.
No matter what your circumstances, if you believe you may be laid off , you should contact your USA steward immediately!
Under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA), Massachusetts and its political subdivisions, including the University of Massachusetts, are obligated to extend continued group health insurance coverage to laid-off employees (both those employees who are terminated and those whose hours are reduced) for up to eighteen (18) months after their layoff. The employer may require the employee to pay up to 102% of the full premium (the extra 2% represents administrative costs). The coverage provided to the laid-off employee must be identical to that being provided to current employees and continues for eighteen (18) months unless the employee becomes covered by another group health plan. COBRA requires that laid-off employees be given notice of their rights under the statute.
If you have any questions about continued health insurance coverage, contact your USA steward.
To be eligible for unemployment compensation, you must receive notification from the University that you are on layoff status and be actively seeking employment. The exact amount of your benefits will depend on your salary and is calculated based on the salary earned in the last four completed calendar quarters.
You are no longer required to file your claim for unemployment compensation in person. The Massachusetts Division of Employment and Training (DET), the state agency responsible for administering the unemployment compensation program, makes unemployment services available by telephone or by walk-in service. (Unfortunately, at the date of the publication of this pamphlet, internet services were not available.
Filing Your Claim by Telephone
You can file a new claim for unemployment compensation, reopen a current claim, be interviewed if there are issues affecting your eligibility, get information on the status of your claim or benefit check, and resolve problems by calling the DET TeleClaim Center at
Filing Your Claim in Person
As in the past, you can also file your claim at one of DET’s 35 Walk-In Centers. The Walk-In Centers also provide orientation sessions and reemployment assistance.
To find the nearest Walk-In Center, call (617)626-6560 and, after the greeting, enter extension #331. You will then be asked for your zip code. You can also find this information on the DET web site at www.detma.org
There are times during the year when there is a higher volume of claims being filed. During these times, the DET institutes the following filing schedule:
|For SS# ending in:
0 or 1
2 or 3
4 or 5
6 or 7
8 or 9
|Your day to file is:
If you miss your filing day, you can call the TeleClaim Center on another day during that week.
Below is important information you will need to know regardless of whether you file by telephone or in person:
- The earliest you can file a claim is during the first full week of unemployment (or the first week that you experience a significant reduction in the number of hours normally worked). NOTE: A delay in filing could affect the amount of your benefits.
- The first week of full unemployment is a “waiting period” for which you will not receive benefits.
- You will need the following information when filing your claim:
- The year you were born;
- Your home address and telephone number;
- Your last day of employment;
- The names and addresses of all of the employers you have worked for during the fifteen (15) months prior to filing your claim and the dates you worked for these employers;
- The names, dates of birth, and social security numbers for any dependent children;
- Your alien registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen.
- Any unemployment benefits you receive are subject to income taxation. Taxes, however, are not automatically deducted from your benefit payment. You must complete an Income Tax Withholding Request Form. If you do not have taxes deducted you may be required to make quarterly estimated tax payments. MORE IMPORTANTLY, however, you do not want to incur a significant tax liability (and possibly penalties) when you file your annual tax return.
MTA Member Services if Your Claim is Denied
If your unemployment compensation claim is denied, contact your USA Steward immediately (see Appendix A). If you are an MTA member, you are entitled to be represented by an MTA attorney, at no charge, in any hearing regarding your eligibility to receive or continue unemployment compensation. Your USA Steward will initiate the necessary steps to have an MTA attorney assigned to assist you. Given the time it will take to process a request for legal services, it is very important that you notify your US Steward immediately.
If you leave the employment of the University you are entitled to withdraw your contributions to the State Retirement Board. You should consider the tax implications of doing so. The interest on your contributions is subject to income tax, as are any contributions made after January 1988 when the Massachusetts law took effect which exempted public sector employee pension contributions from federal income tax. If you are under the age of 59 ½, there is also a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
If you hope to be recalled or seek employment within another state agency in Massachusetts, you should seriously consider leaving your contributions in the retirement system. If you withdraw your contributions and then rejoin the retirement system at a later date, you will deemed to be a “new member” of the system for purposes of determining the percentage of salary you will be required to contribute. The following percentages currently apply:
|If you entered the Retirement System
before Jan. 1, 1975
after Jan. 1, 1975 but before Jan. 1, 1984
after Jan. 1, 1984 but before July 1, 1996
after July 1, 1996
Also, regular compensation in excess of $30,000 is subject to an additional 2% contribution.
If you are recalled within two (2) years, you will be required to repay the funds you withdrew, plus interest. After two (2) years, you are allowed to “buy back” your previous service to improve your retirement benefit, but it is not required.
Under 10 years of creditable service: Members vest in the retirement system when they reach 10 years of creditable service. If you have less than 10 years of creditable service you may want to keep your contributions with the State Retirement Board in anticipation of future state employment.
Under Age 55 and 10 to 20 years of creditable service: If you have more than 10 years but less than 20 years of creditable service, and are under age 55, you should consider keeping your contributions with the State Retirement Board. At age 55 you will become eligible to receive a pension.
Age 55 with minimum 10 years: If you are age 55 or older and have a minimum of ten years of creditable service, you are eligible to retire.
Twenty Years of Service: If you have 20 years of creditable service, regardless of your age, and you are terminated or removed from your position involuntarily (and for reasons that do not involve moral turpitude), you are eligible for a special “termination retirement” which includes a calculation that could enhance your retirement allowance. (If you have substantially more than 20 years, you may do better under the regular retirement formula.)
MTA members are entitled to free retirement consulting services with and MTA Retirement Consultant. MTA Retirement Consultants are available throughout the state to assist you. The Consultant schedule is published in the MTA Today and can be obtained by calling the USA office at (413)545-0165.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS CONCERNING YOUR RETIREMENT PLEASE TALK TO ONE OF MTA’S CONSULTANTS AND HAVE YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY AN EXPERT.
PLANNING YOUR JOB SEARCH
Job seekers should attack the challenge of finding new employment on a broad scale. Network by letting people know you are looking. Watch periodicals and review the “Help Wanted” ads in local papers, The Boston Globe, and The Boston Herald.
The internet also offers some great new job search resources, like Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com or Hotjobs.com, just to name a few. You can also access some of the local and state periodicals on-line.
If you choose to register with a professional search firm, make sure the EMPLOYER pays the placement fee.
The following steps are critical for preparing for the application and interview process:
- Draft a one page resume: In general, place your name, address, and telephone number at the top of the page. Next, list your professional experience in chronological order, with a brief description of the positions responsibilities and skills. Then list your educational background, listing institutions, degree achieved (or years completed) and year of completion.
- Draft an effective cover letter: Your letter of application will be the cover page for your resume. There are two types of cover letter: a general cover letter used when submitting your resume/application to an employer to inquire about any and all available positions; and a specific cover letter to be used when applying for a specific position. In both cases, your cover letter should be short, effective and professional – emphasizing your “fitness” for employment and any qualities or experiences that set you that may give you an advantage over other applicants. For specific jobs, you will want to try and connect your skills and experience to the responsibilities and qualities sought by the employer.
- Prepare for the interview: Preparing for a job interview is extremely important. Prepare honest, but dynamic, oral responses to the general type of interview questions that you can expect to be asked. Go to the interview with as much information about the potential employer and position as possible and make a list of questions that you can ask of your interviewer (Remember – you are also interviewing the potential employer to determine if you want to work for them).Dress neatly and professionally for the interview.Know your rights. Interview questions should be job-related.
MTA MEMBERSHIP MTA members who have been laid off are entitled to remain members of MTA at 50% dues for three years or the period during which they are entitled to recall, which ever is longer.
It is necessary to maintain your MTA membership in order to be eligible for legal services and benefits through MTA Benefits .