Health care talks still ongoing

Leaders from the three unions at the newspaper continued their discussion Tuesday about next year’s health insurance.

No conclusions were reached, and the parties agreed to meet again Monday.

The main issue is the company’s attempt to make employees start paying the same percentage of the deductible reimbursement that we pay of the insurance premium. For Guild members under the imposed conditions, that number is frozen at 23 percent.

During previous years, the parties agreed the union members would pay the first $750 of medical expenses and the company would pay the rest up to $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a family. Now the company wants Guild members to pay 23 percent of that reimbursement, which the company estimated at $600,000 next year.

(In an earlier bulletin, we incorrectly said the company wanted us to pay the full $600,000. We apologize for the error.)

The result — which we reported accurately — would be Guild members seeing health care costs rise more than 30 percent, while the company’s would rise less than 13 percent.

The unions learned Tuesday that the $600,000 figure is higher than what the company actually spent to reimburse workers. Two years ago, the company spent about $495,000 toward its share of the deductible. Last year, the company spent $514,000. This year, the TU expects to spend $525,000.

The union leaders from the Guild, mailroom and press room asked for several pieces of information. They include the exact figures for the reimbursements and data for each union on how many members reached the top of the deductible.

All of the unions said they were not yet in a position to make a proposal. The leaders are meeting among themselves Monday before meeting with the company.

Guild President Tim O’Brien also asked a question many members have raised: Could employees be given an option where they pay more upfront in return for not having to face the potential pact of the 90/10 split?

The company and its brokers said that would drive up costs for everyone and it is less expensive to have all employees covered under one plan.

The meeting began with Publisher George Hearst objecting to a handful of Guild members being present to observe the health care discussion. O’Brien replied members had attended in the past without objection. Leaders of the other unions had no objection to our members observing.

In the interest of moving the discussion along, the members left as the Guild promised to keep them informed.

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