The administration is expected Monday to resolve part of a dispute over health care with one city union.
The Board of Estimate and Contract has scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Monday in the Common Council chambers at City Hall. The lone agenda item is to authorize settlement of a grievance filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Local 1088, which represents many Public Works employees.
The union filed a grievance against the prior administration for switching health care providers in 2011, claiming the change violated its collective bargaining agreement. The change was from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to EBS RMSCO, and affected all city employees, not just those in Local 1088.
The grievance case went to arbitration, and, as the legislation
notes, the arbitrator’s finding was that the city’s change in insurance carriers did violate the bargaining agreement. As a result, the city was ordered to refund to employees the amount that employees carrying the traditional (indemnity) coverage would have paid for health insurance through Excellus.
To resolve the matter, the city will refund certain employees in Local 1088 for 2011 and 2012 costs. The refunds will be based on the amount of health insurance premiums employees would have paid had the city not changed providers.
For 2011, that will mean the city will pay back $1,667.90 to each employee enrolled in the traditional family plan and $155.22 to those in the traditional single plan — a total of $31,040.39.
For 2012, the Treasurer’s Office still has to confirm the rates for coverage, and will be authorized to refund employees with traditional coverage based on those rates. Because rates were reduced compared to 2011, Corporation Counsel and board member Timothy A. Benedict said the 2012 reimbursements will be "significantly lower" than the 2011 total.
This does not resolve the entire complaint from Local 1088, noted Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr., who chairs the board. "We’re still dealing with the whole health care issue, with the carrier we’re using," he said today. To get outstanding issues resolved and move on to negotiating contracts for the city’s five unions, he said, "This is step one. It’s something we needed to get resolution to and see what the cost was. This was a big step."
The city’s five unions are all without contracts, not only for this year but for last year as well. In addition to Local 1088, which has 83 members, the other unions and their memberships are: Rome Professional Firefighters Association (78 members) and two members of the related union for chiefs, Civil Service Employees Association (77 members), Philip S. McDonald Police Benevolent Association (74 full-time and 11 part-time members) and Amalgamated Transit Union (four members).
Though the settlement affects only Local 1088, Fusco and Benedict both noted that the city will likely have to make similar repayments to members of other unions for the same reasons. Estimates on how much that could cost are similar to what the city will pay Local 1088 members.
Luckily, the city will not have to scramble to find funds for the reimbursements. When the city switched carriers in 2011, Excellus officials indicated to city officials that the company was going to hold for two years the $330,000 in city money set aside for settlements. Fusco approached Excellus early this year and was able to get that money back eight months early. "This money is there to help offset that cost," said Benedict of the plan to use the money for this settlement.