Union under audit, members claim they’re owed thousands towards pensions

"I don't think either side thinks it was malicious, it's more a question of what was the system like at the time, and how was that calculation was done with a system that doesn’t exist anymore?  There’s been a fair amount of historical piecing things back together to really understand what happened."

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Members of LIUNA affiliates Local 808 and Local 1033 came to ABC6 with concerns about pension deductions from their paychecks.

They say they could be owed thousands of dollars. According to financial documents, members were paying $0.71/hour towards their pension fund in 2007, earning a $29.62 pension credit. When the pension went underfunded the following year, pension credits were cut in half to $15.62. The pension fund board negotiated a yearly 10% rate increase to restock the pension.

Members tell ABC6 that the fund is refunded but their rates have not been dropped, and pension credits have not been adjusted. They want to know why.

ABC6 News discovered that LIUNA has hired an independent accounting firm to go through nearly two decades of financial documents detailing how deductions and payroll were processed.

RI Director of Administration Brett Smiley says he is aware of the issue raised by some employees. “If there are employees who are owed extra funds, the state has adequate resources to make the situation right,” Smiley told ABC6 News in October.

According to Michael Sabitoni, Business Manager for the Rhode Island Laborers District Council, there were no illegal deductions, and any irregularities were caused by an antiquated system.

In a statement to ABC6 News, he said, “The RILDC has hired an outside independent accounting firm to review and determine if there was any administrative irregularities as alleged. It would be inappropriate to comment at this time until the audit is complete.”

He added that the audit was taking longer than expected due to COVID-19.

“I don’t think either side thinks it was malicious, it’s more a question of what was the system like at the time, and how was that calculation was done with a system that doesn’t exist anymore?  There’s been a fair amount of historical piecing things back together to really understand what happened,” Smiley said.

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