The Times Union proposed a dramatic increase in health-care costs late Thursday afternoon that was rejected by both the Guild and the Teamsters.
Publisher George Hearst and the company’s insurance brokers provided three different costly options.
The first would allow members to stay with MVP but the cost would rise from $33.80 a week to $51.38 and the deductible would rise from $750 to $1,000.
The second option, which the company was promoting, was to switch to a Blue Cross plan that would cost $46.28 a week but would require both a $1,000 deductible and employees would have to pay 10 percent of any nonpreventive care. That means if you had cancer, got into a car accident or otherwise needed medical care, you’d have to pay up to an additional $2,000 for an individual or a whopping $4,000 for a family.
The third option was a Blue Cross plan with no percentage payment but a huge $2,000 deductible. Under that plan, members would pay $45.82 a week.
As part of its proposal, the company also tried to shift some additional costs to the unions, prompting Teamsters’ President Mike Cipollo to understandably walk out.
Tim O’Brien and Lindsay LaFountain represented the Guild. Both O’Brien and Cipollo told Hearst the proposed insurance was not comparable.
Under the conditions imposed by the Company, the Times Union must provide either existing insurance or a comparable plan.
“This is not comparable,” O’Brien told Hearst. “My members have not had a raise in three years. They cannot afford this hit. We will not agree to change to a plan that is not comparable without a full contract settlement.”
The union’s Executive Board is meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to hear Guild International Barbara Camens review the legal cases the union has been winning. The board will add the health care issue and putting together a contract proposal to its agenda. The meeting is open to all members and will be held at the Guild’s office at 890 Third St., Albany.
“Once a company imposes conditions, it cannot make any further changes to the contract without agreement,” O’Brien said. “Given that our members are seeing their wages frozen, people in advertising are getting their commissions cut, members have to worry if they are being targeted for layoff, and everyone is struggling to make ends meet, we would only agree to changes as part of a total settlement. And that still doesn’t mean any of the options presented are acceptable. We will put together a reasonable package proposal that should be acceptable to both our members and the Times Union. We hope the newspaper’s leaders will be as flexible as we are.”