One Workforce for the Price of Two
Providence real estate agent Mark Van Noppen notes the numerical consequence of one aspect of the city’s labor practices:
Not a bad gig: Become a Providence firefighter at age 20, work the 23 years required to collect a pension and retire at 43. But Providence taxpayers — its property owners — have to pay a pension to that retired 43-year-old for at least 20 years more than they should. There are 2,905 retirees in the system. City councilors say that there about 250 firefighters waiting only for the full passage of their contract before retiring.
The city now pays for more than two health-insurance plans for every full-time permanent worker still on the job. Try running a business with that anchor round your neck!
He closes by noting that local politicians appear willing to let this train run the state right off a cliff, rather than muster the will to make dramatic corrections. As I’ve long been arguing, the gravy coalition may have so strong a grip on the levers of power that its constituencies simply outnumber those who live and die by the economic health of the state, creating the self-reinforcing conclusion that those who wish to strive and thrive do best just to leave.
In that way, public discussion of what reforms would be reasonable wallows in the shallows of “don’t touch mine.” Why, for example, shouldn’t it be the case that pensions and retiree healthcare starts at a certain age no matter the year that an employee transitions out of his or her job? The fact that firefighting, for example, takes its toll on the mind and the body shouldn’t mean second careers must be fully underwritten for those who’ve put in their time with public service. Go on and enter that new phase of life, but you’ll still have to wait until a minimum age before you’re considered “retired” for pension and public healthcare purposes.
Even to make such suggestions is considered a hostile attack, and too few Rhode Islanders will dare to come to their defense for reforms ever to be seriously entertained, even, ironically, if those expecting the fantastic deals will ultimately see them undermined by their own weight.