Labor unions sue over Rhode Island pension reform

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2012 3:07 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Labor unions sued the state of Rhode Island on Friday over sweeping public pension reforms passed last year, putting the July 1 implementation date at risk of delay.

The unions claim that state officials violated employment contracts and did not first try less severe measures before enacting pension reforms, according to Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association's Rhode Island chapter.

The reforms, spearheaded by state treasurer Gina Raimondo, suspended cost-of-living adjustments, raised the retirement age, lowered the assumed rate of return on pension funds to 7.5 percent from 8.25 percent and moved state employees onto a hybrid pension benefit plan, among other changes.

A spokeswoman for Raimondo did not immediately reply to a request for comment. She and Governor Lincoln Chafee, who supported the legislation, were among those named in the litigation.

Most U.S. states have begun some kind of reform for their public pension systems in the face of massive unfunded liabilities. But Rhode Island's reform has been among the most far-reaching, experts have said.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Vicki Allen, Gary Hill)