Unions hold initial talks on health care

Leaders of the Guild and other unions began discussions Thursday on health care for
2014.

No decisions were made, and the talks will continue next Thursday. The Company also based its numbers on an assumption Guild members will pay a share of the Company deductible, which our union has not agreed to do.

The Company’s consultant, Rowlands and Barranca, presented multiple options and were recommending a switch from Blue Shield to Empire Blue Cross. That plan would not include coverage for going to doctors outside Blue Cross’ national network, which we now can do at a cost. The firm’s Michael Barranca said about 2 percent of the medical payments tend to be for doctors who are not part of the network.

Employees now pay $46.17 a week for health care. Under the numbers presented by the Company, that would rise to $54.91 a week if we stay with Blue Shield, an 18.9 percent increase. If we switch to the Empire Blue Cross and keep the $750 deductible, it would rise to $53.13 weekly, a 15 percent hike.

The company’s consultant presented three alternatives that would raise the deductible to $1,000. The Empire plan with the higher deductible would cost $51.93 a week, up 12.4 percent.

Guild President Tim O’Brien noted the slight savings on the premium would not make a $250 increase in the deductible worthwhile. He said there would be a backlash if the Company tried to raise the deductible.

As the Guild examined the numbers afterward, it became clear the Company is assuming our members would pay 23 percent of the Company’s reimbursement of its part of the deductible and would cover part of the cost for Rowlands and Barranca to administer the plan.

This stems back to a discussion last year where the Company sought to change the definition of “total cost” to include these items. We went into off-the-record negotiations last year, and the only agreement reached was to pay a set dollar amount.

“We have not reached any agreement on these numbers, and we maintain our right to bargain over exactly what our members will pay,” O’Brien said.

While the Company said its brokers had found a plan that would increase premium costs only about 4.5 percent, the bill to Guild members would rise substantially more than that due to the Company’s attempts at cost-shifting.

“Like last year, we are committed to bargaining on behalf of our members and we will carefully examine all these numbers in detail,” O’Brien said. “We will also keep our members informed every step of the way. With no raise in more than six years, Guild
members cannot afford more shifting of health care costs from the Company to
the employees.”

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