8/18/08

Early retirement epidemic hits labor-state

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Valuable experience to be lost

Hundreds of state workers are opting to retire early rather than pay higher health care costs. The departures come after the General Assembly passed a new law requiring state employees to start paying more for their medical coverage when they retire starting in October.

The Providence Journal reports that about 550 state employees applied for retirement benefits in the first half of the year. That's more than double the 215 workers who applied during the same time period last year.

The biggest jump came in June, when 299 people applied for retirement benefits. A spokesman for the state treasurer's office expects another jump this month and in September, as the deadline approaches.

Joseph “Michael” Downey, president of Council 94 the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said many of his members have little choice by too retire sooner than they wanted. The union represents about 4,000 state workers.

Until the change, Rhode Island was one of 11 states that paid 100 percent of the medical benefits for state employees who retire with the required years of service before age 65.

Lawmakers approved the change to the retirement benefits in response to the state's budget crisis.

Ten months ago, Domenic Moretti, was promoted to senior construction building inspector, a job with a pay raise to $25 per hour and the responsibility of overseeing 4-million-square-feet of campus with 163 apartments at the University of Rhode Island

But after nearly 38 years with the state, Moretti, 57, said he feels he has to step down sooner than he'd like.

”If I retired after September, my health coverage would cost $172 a month,” he said. If he left before then, he said, he could keep his medical benefits, paid 100 percent by the state.

His last day of work was June 20.

(theday.com)

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