It’s time to talk to you about health insurance.
This issue is a recurring challenge for us in bargaining and, as in years past, we must deal with it again in these contract negotiations.
Here’s the bottom line: If The Buffalo News gets what it wants in insurance, say goodbye to life as you know it. Your pay will decline significantly every year as money is deducted from your salary to offset insurance costs. You may be working full time, but still become poor.
Let’s briefly explain the situation.
The company currently offers Guild members enough health insurance credits to buy the Guild base plan. Without getting into every detail, The News, in general, wants its annual obligation capped at 5 percent increases, starting next year.
A provision in our contract allows The News to do this if the contract is expired when a new plan year begins, but the contract also says this will only happen absent an agreement between the parties to modify the provision. We’ve avoided the provision over the years by coming to terms on modifications, including The Guild’s cooperative efforts to reduce costs through health plan redesign.
The News is also proposing to eliminate the contract language about finding alternatives.
The 5 percent provision – because of the enormity of its financial threat — is an outrage. Please, for a few moments, consider how this works because the numbers will amaze you.
Assuming health insurance premiums increase 10 percent to 11 percent a year, which has been the average for a decade, here is how the math plays out for those with a family health plan.
You will pay about $1,000 for health insurance in 2016, $3,000 in 2017, $5,500 in 2018, $8,000 in 2019 and $11,000 in 2020. By 2022, you will pay nearly 50 percent of the projected premium – likely around $18,000. The employee share of the premium approaches $31,000 in 2025.
Every year the dollar amounts increase, as does your share of the premium. There’s no cap. The following chart tells the story.
For those with single health plans, if The News gets its way, you will pay about $1,000 in 2017 and $2,000 in 2018. You’re at about $3,000 in 2019 and $4,000 in 2020. Your share of the premium is about $6,500 by 2022.
These are rough estimates, but close enough to show how much it will hurt. It amounts to a massive and continual pay cut.
If we accept management’s proposal, the money reporters and photographers will pay in health insurance will amount to a 5 percent pay cut in 2017, a 9 percent cut in 2018, a 13 percent cut in 2019, an 18 percent cut in 2020 and about a 30 percent cut by 2022.
For those in Group B in the Circulation Department, the hollowing out of your finances is even worse because your salary is lower.
Insurance deductions will amount to an 8 percent pay cut in 2017 and 15 percent in 2018. In 2019, your pay will be reduced by 22 percent and in 2020 by 30 percent. You are now entering poverty level territory. And by 2022, your share of the insurance premium will eat up half of your salary.
Poverty level income for a family of four is $24,250, according to the government.
Folks, think about your household budget. How will you pay the mortgage or the rent, or make car payments? Where will the money come from to put food on the table and clothe the kids?
We work in challenging times as newspapers respond to major changes in the way people get and consume news and advertising.
We want The News to succeed, and we want to be part of the future. But it should not come at the cost of impoverishing us. That’s not right.
We would like to believe that management simply does not fully understand the financial implications of this poisonous arrangement. If management does understand, how can it think that we will quietly accept such a catastrophic disruption in our lives?
Finally, we’ve all grown accustomed to hearing about rising insurance premiums, and their burden on employers. Here’s something you might not know: premiums have gone up, but the overall cost of insuring Guild members is practically the same today as it was 10 years ago and has changed little over the past decade because of staff reductions, plan redesigns and competitive bidding.
What The News is seeking, places an unconscionable financial burden on employees at a still-profitable company owned by one of the richest men in the world. How do you feel about that?
Social media campaign
Hear from Buffalo Newspaper Guild members talking about their work, their colleagues’ dedication and the value of what they and other Guild members produce in videos posted on the Guild website: http://www.buffaloguild.org.
These are part of a series of #WeAreTheNews videos made by members for our campaign for a fair contract.