Health care talks to resume January 3

Guild negotiators continue to bargain over health care costs for 2013, and those talks will now continue into January. Employees will still have health coverage with Blue Shield.

The Company responded to the Guild’s proposal of Wednesday by moving only slightly. The Company wants members to pay 23 percent of the costs of reimbursing its share of the deductible. The Company originally estimated that number at $600,000, and on Thursday dropped it to $585,000 while admitting that number is still inflated.

The Times Union also proposed language that said if employees are overcharged, it would reimburse the excess charges but not until September 1, 2014.

Guild negotiators said that amounted to a 21-month, interest-free loan from employees to the Company. The Guild also said the reimbursement raised a host of questions including whether the company would repay people who had left the newspaper, people hired midyear, and whether taxes would be withheld from any payment.

The Company attorney responded to the questions by threatening to withdraw that part of the proposal — allowing the Company to overcharge members and pocket the money. If the estimate proved too low, the Company would want members to pay more.

“Our proposal was much simpler,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “Members would pay a share of actual costs. That way, there is no need to worry about what to do with any overpayment or shortfall.”

The most recent year for which all claims are in is 2011. The Company had said $515,000 was reimbursed that year.  On Thursday, the Company said it missed a bill and the number was $528,134. The Guild asked for documents supporting the new number.

The union withdrew its proposals to cap increases in future years. Both parties kept the proposal of phasing in the added costs at 50 percent for 2013, but the Guild dropped its proposal to phase the rest in at a rate of 10 percent a year in subsequent years. The Guild kept its proposal to have the company share in the first $750 of medical costs, and we lowered a proposed signing bonus for agreeing to the changes to $750.

During the discussion, the Company said it gives exempt employees who have a Flexible Savings Account a $250 annual contribution. Guild members are being asked to accept sharing the health care costs the same way managers do.

The parties agreed to meet again Thursday, January 3. The Guild was represented by O’Brien, Treasurer Marianne Mahr, Secretary Mark Hempstead, Chief Steward Brian Nearing and International Representative Jim Schaufenbil.




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