The Newspaper Guild has been advised by its attorney, Barbara Camens, that the company cannot legally change what the parties have previously agreed constitutes the “total cost” of health care and add new costs onto the employees.
The legal advice comes as the company is seeking to make Guild and other union members pay some of the costs for the insurance broker and for the company’s share of the deductible.
Camens told the local Tuesday that under the imposed conditions, the relevant part of the contract remains in effect. Until now both both the Company and the Guild have understood the terms “total cost” to refer to premium costs. That is how the contract has been consistently applied and that is how an arbitrator or the NLRB would apply the contract language.
Since the company has never before included those costs, Camens said, it cannot legally change the definition now.
“Based on the advice of our counsel, we informed the Company today we would oppose any effort to shift these costs onto our members,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “We support keeping the current Blue Shield plan with our members paying the same year over year percentage increase as the Company.”
The company proposal is to shift $70,000 of those costs to Guild members. That would cost each enrolled employee about $500 extra a year or $10 a week for those added costs alone.
Without the cost shift, Guild members would be looking at an increase of about $4.50 a week.