Guild leaders received approval Aug. 4 at a general membership meeting to start negotiations on a limited set of issues with The Buffalo News a year early.
The Guild’s agenda for the proposed talks is limited to wages, health insurance and a contract extension. Other issues may get negotiated, depending on The News’ agenda.
Guild leaders have weighed the pros and cons, and believe that it is in our best interest to negotiate a deal now. Among the reasons for moving forward now:
- If we wait to negotiate until next year, the Guild will lose an opportunity to use 2011, a year The News is on the hook to pay the full premium for health insurance, as leverage to make any health plan changes more valuable in negotiations.
- If we wait until next year, the company will lose an opportunity to offset an anticipated large increase in its health insurance premiums and reap significant long-term savings.
- If we wait until next year, the risk increases that health insurance issues will push us into a major battle with The News and all the mobilization efforts that go with that.
Guild leaders believe that being proactive by negotiating a year early is a more sensible alternative. If successful, it will reduce health insurance costs for The News, maintain a good health plan for Guild members, and provide both sides with continued stability over this issue.
The Guild followed a similar approach in 2007. We redesigned insurance to save money in the last year of the contract in 2008, and then extended the agreement through 2011.
This time around things won’t be as simple. For one thing, the easier health plan changes, such as tweaking copayments, have largely been done. It may turn out that the only way left to achieve significant savings is to accept some cost-sharing.
For instance, one idea likely to be examined is a type of health plan in which members who use major medical services pay a percentage of the expenses up to an annual maximum amount.
But nothing has been decided. All that has happened is that both sides have agreed to explore the issue and health insurers have been asked to provide alternative health plan redesigns and their prices. When there are details to share, Guild officials will share them.
It should be noted that it’s possible, depending on the outcome of discussions, that The News or Guild could decide to abandon these negotiations and wait until next year when our current contract expires.
Bottom line: There is little, if anything, to lose and potentially much to gain by looking at our options.
In addition to approving early negotiations, the Guild named a bargaining team. It consists of Henry Davis, President Pat Gormley, Jim Heaney, Felice McMillion, and Guild staff Tammy Turnbull and Marian Needham. The team will report back to the Guild Executive Committee on a regular basis.