Publisher George Hearst threatened to impose a deductible of $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families Monday if the Guild did not agree to a 24 percent annual hike in health care costs.
Guild President Tim O’Brien warned Hearst that such an action would be illegal.
Guild officers are seeking a location for a membership meeting this week to gather your input. We expect to know when and where later Tuesday.
Hearst has been demanding that the union start paying 23 percent of the costs of the company’s reimbursements for its share of the deductible and of the fee charged by its plan administrator. To do so would mean employees’ health care costs would grow by more than a third.
Under the imposed conditions, the company cannot change the definition of what the parties have previously agreed constitutes “total cost.” The company is seeking to have union members cover part of the company’s reimbursement to exempt employees, members of other unions and people on COBRA as well as Guild members.
Under the imposed conditions, the company must offer a health care plan that is comparable. Hearst insisted that only refers to the benefits offered, and he can remove the company share of the deductible and yet the plan would remain comparable.
O’Brien said that is not true, and Hearst’s own words in the 2008 negotiations that got the parties into the high deductible plan show that changing the size of the deductible could render the plan not comparable.
Mechanical unions at the newspaper accepted the company’s argument and settled for paying half the increased cost. If the Guild followed the same formula, its members would pay $9.24 a week more or 24 percent. At the same time, the company’s year over year costs would increase 12.7 percent.
“This is not about the price of health care increasing,” O’Brien said. “We are ready and willing to pay the same percentage increase as the Times Union. This is about trying to shift more costs onto the backs of employees who have not had a raise in more than five years. The publisher had said a 15 percent increase in year over year costs was unacceptable to the company, but he has no qualms about demanding his employees pay 24 percent more — or face an unbearable financial burden if Guild members think that’s unacceptable.”