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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

State ordered to negotiate with public workers over pensions

By Bob Plain in

Facing the camera, left to right: Bob Walsh (NEARI), George Nee
(RI AFL-CIO), Patrick Crowley (NEARI)
Gina Raimondo didn’t want to come to the negotiating table voluntarily, but now thanks to a court order she will have to sit down with organized labor and Gov. Linc Chafee to try to hammer out a compromise on Rhode Island’s landmark pension reform law, according to a story first reported by WPRI.

Chafee has already been meeting with union leaders and Raimondo said she didn’t want to join those talks. Judge Sarah Taft-Carter’s ruling today means she has to. Raimondo has said if a court ordered her to negotiate that she would do so in good faith.

NEA-RI Executive Director Bob Walsh, who has been involved in the talks with Chafee, said he thinks a compromise can be worked out by February.

“I expect we will have a busy month of January,” said a very pleased Bob Walsh today. “We’ll have a big group, as we should, because everybody has different issues to bring forward.”

Here’s what I expect labor to be asking the state to budge on behind closed doors this January:

  • ·         Set a less stringent retirement age, which was unilaterally raised in the reform legislation

  • ·         Reduce the amount of time the annual cost of living increase to pensions will be suspended

  • ·         Make the new system less reliant on a 401k-style, or defined contribution, plan

If the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement, a trial could still start as soon as early May.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.