The Newspaper Guild will meet Tuesday with Times Union management to discuss avenues to reach an overall settlement on all outstanding issues between the parties.
At our lawyer’s advice, the session is being held off-the-record because there are pending legal cases involved. Representing the Guild’s members will be President Tim O’Brien, First Vice President Lindsay LaFountain, Chief Steward Brian Nearing and International Representative Jim Schaufenbil.
The meeting comes as the company is proposing to move Guild members into a new Blue Cross health-care plan. The company has proposed keeping the deductible for that plan at $750, rather than the $1,000 originally sought.
While that plan would be less expensive than the other options presented in terms of the health insurance share, it also would shift costs onto the sickest members. Once the company’s share of the deductible of $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families was reached, members would have to pay 10 percent of any additional medical costs (except for well child care and preventative care like physicals). Employees could then have to pay up to a maximum of $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families. This would apply to everything from hip replacement surgery to cancer care to surgery after a car accident.
Last year, that would have cost 26 employees $2,000 or more in added medical expenses. Thirteen of those would have paid an extra $3,000, and six of those folks would have paid the full $4,000. A total of 198 out of 389 employees would not have had to pay any share of the 90/10 split. (These numbers includes people in management and other unions. We were not given a specific breakdown of people in our union.)
“We are certainly willing to discuss this option, but the cost shifting to the sickest employees means this plan is not comparable to what we now have,” O’Brien said. “A membership vote would be required to approve it, and the company cannot legally impose it. That’s why we think it makes sense to discuss health care in the context of an overall settlement of the contract and legal cases.”
The Guild is also seeking outside expert advice on health care. The committee working on that includes Nearing, Third Vice President Brendan Lyons and Treasurer Dan Roesser.
The Executive Board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Guild office in the Albany Labor Temple to discuss the results of the day’s discussion. The membership is welcome to attend that Executive Board meeting