Iannazzi criticizes intransigent Providence police, fire retirees

Iannazzi, right, with Taveras

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The leader of Providence’s largest union leveled his toughest criticism yet at the city’s police and fire retirees this week, saying their alleged intransigence killed a potential deal with Mayor Angel Taveras to stabilize the troubled pension system and suggesting they do not understand the gravity of the situation.

“Some individuals, acting in a manner that I characterize as irresponsible, have suggested that no changes to the retirement system can occur and that we stand back and let the inevitable (city insolvency) occur,” Donald Iannazzi, Local 1033’s business manager, wrote Tuesday in a letter to his members. “Local 1033 has never acted irresponsibly and will not start today.”

Iannazzi confirmed the letter’s authenticity after WPRI.com obtained a copy. It says Local 1033’s negotiating team “agreed in principal to a tentative agreement” that would have suspended cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for retirees receiving less than $40,000 in exchange for no changes to medical benefits. The union’s agreement was contingent on police and fire retirees signing on, he said.

“Response from too many retirees receiving 5% and 6% compounded COLAs was that they would rather fight to the end, even if the end caused a failure in the retirement system and in the city,” Iannazzi said.

Joseph Penza Jr., the attorney representing the Providence Retired Police and Firefighters Association in negotiations with the city, disputed Iannazzi. “I have no idea where he got that information from, absolutely none,” Penza told WPRI.com. “I don’t know who he’s quoting. We’ve been negotiating with the city. … That mantra, if you will, does not come from us.”

“It has not been our position at all in the negotiations with the city that we would rather see the city go bankrupt than give up a penny,” he said. “Why would we be negotiating? I don’t know why Donald put that in his letter. You would have to ask him.” The police and fire retirees issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying they had offered concessions, but their estimated savings fell short of the city’s goals.

“We’ve negotiated in good faith with police and fire retirees to reach an agreement that protects the pensions retirees currently receive while achieving the savings needed to prevent Providence from eventual bankruptcy,” Taveras spokesman David Ortiz said, adding that the police and fire retirees’ negotiators “have not presented an offer that comes close” to the $16 million to $20 million in savings the city wants.

“If Providence is forced into bankruptcy because of a failure to act, retirees would lose much more than annual raises,” Ortiz added.

Iannazzi made a similar point in his letter, which was partly an explanation of his decision to support a pension overhaul signed Monday by Taveras that freezes COLAs for all retirees and that some police and fire representatives say they’ll challenge in court. “This is not desired legislation but rather necessary legislation and the only responsible action,” he wrote.

“As I have attempted to communicate with others, we are in the bottom of the ninth inning and failure to act NOW will result in an irreversible path that will cause adverse actions to the benefits received by our retired and active members, as well as every citizen of our city,” Iannazzi continued. He also noted that the enacted retirement ordinance removed a section that would have changed health benefits.

“Failure to act would have caused the system to fail and the city to collapse in the near future,” he added. “Inaction is not an alternative. This tough medicine is necessary; and while the retirement system will not be declared healthy tomorrow, a lasting path to wellness has been selected.”

Local 1033 will oppose the police and fire retirees’ efforts to block the retirement changes in court, “not because the recent legislation is ideal, but only because it was necessary,” Iannazzi said.

Penza, the police and fire retirees’ lawyer, said they have not yet decided what course of action to take with regard to the new pension ordinance, partly because they are preparing for a separate trial set to begin May 21 contesting the city’s push to move retirees to Medicare. The two sides both say they are still working to reach a settlement and avoid a trial.

“We don’t want to talk about negotiations publicly, but the mayor has said that his door is open,” Ortiz told WPRI.com. “A settlement on Medicare that avoids litigation and achieves the savings that Providence needs is obviously preferable to going to court.”

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

(photo: city of Providence)

23 thoughts on “Iannazzi criticizes intransigent Providence police, fire retirees

    • I agree, talking with the unions and their retirees is a waste of time. Bankrupcy will shift the balance of power and as I’ve stated before, negotiations always go much more smoothly when you have your foot on the other parties throat.

  1. If you took away all the people Ianazzi put on the city of Providence payroll, everyone could have a $50.000 dollar a year pension, with money to spare.

  2. “Local 1033 has never acted irresponsibly and will not start today.”

    May I ask how 5% and 6% COLA’s were negotiated into the pension contract?

    • OF course 1033 is for the legislation! They are not affected at all. Their employees make more money than the cops and firefighters. The tree trimmers in Roger Williams Park make the same hourly rate as a police sergeant and fire lieutenant. The big difference is with details and overtime. But hat is a temporary. Sound hiring practices will cut the OT costs.

      The members of 1033 get a city pension, a union pension, and social security. The cops and firefighters get only a city pension.

      Next time you see some of your city workers standing in a group of six while one guy works or gets caught on camera remember they are the root cause of govt inefficiency!

  3. Anything that Donald Ianazzi says can not be taken seriously! He only negotiates when it benefits him. Trust and believe if he gave something up he got in return! He is the biggest criminal of all. I am a proud union member thankfully not 1033 and I have to say he makes all the other unions look bad. He is actually a huge part of the “fundemental” cause of the city’s money issues.

  4. Corruption and greed always end eventually in collapse. A bankruptcy while messy will put the taxpayers instead of the unions in control of the city. Fortunately we finally have a mayor willing to stand up to these overpaid public servants. Unions have no place in government since they can trade election contributions for gold plated contacts at taxpayer expense.

  5. If I were a 1033 member ,I would be looking to get rid of ianazzi in a minute ! You members have to stand up against him!

  6. Cut ALL Public pensions by 50% … and their pensions would STILL greater (as a % of pay) than what 90+% of Private sector taxpayers get.

    Greed HAS consequences.

    Oh …. and end all retiree heathcare subsidies.

  7. It is the stategy of the R.I. League of Cities and Towns to create a financial crisis greater than what it is in order to get a court to find that a “specific public purpose” exists thereby getting around the need to re-negotiate knowing that they would not get unanimity.

    Having made poor political and fiscal decisions in the past are not remedies to breach a collectively bargained contract which is meant to be enforced and never breached by the employees.

    Therefore, no amount of negotiation by the retirees would satisfy the need to shift the fiancial burden to the retirees.

    Re-negotiation not confrontation is the key. Legal issue is a high bar to reach and costly.

    • Rags – you can not fix stupid. Let the dopes post what ever they want, who cares. Treat them like the children they are and ignor them.


    “The case law does not preclude but rather supports this Court’s holding that Plaintiffs, as ten-year veterans of the State, possess a contractual relationship with the State pertaining to retirement allowances and COLA benefits which are not subject to collective bargaining.”

  9. Now two councilman want to change their votes. The two dirtbags are John Igliozzi and Terry Hasset. Well boys it is time to think about the taxpayers first than over what you are going to lose from the public sector unions. I really don’t think it matters if the public sector union wins in court or not, Providence will be file chapter 9 in the next 7 weeks.

    • That’s exactly what they should do …. and then end all retiree healthcare subsidies and cut pensions by 50-75%….. still better than what most taxpayers (who the Unions want to pay for THEIR pensions) get from their own employers.

  10. Easy for you to ssay iannazzi, you’ve been robbing the city and your union forever- you got yours now everyone else can go &^%$ themselves-right? Let the city go bankrupt, sell the resevoir for the 1 billion it’s worth and then [ay what you promised.

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