Vol XIII, Issue 25 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Oct. 2, 2002

Members Ask Company to Talk

Unanimous vote calls for 'immediate' return to bargaining
Administrator's contract unanimously approved
New health options accepted by overwhelming vote

Guild members voted unanimously yesterday to invite the Journal to "immediately resume contract negotiation, including off-the-record sessions if necessary."

The vote, at a quarterly membership meeting attended by 48 people, came after Guild Administrator Tim Schick told the membership that the judge's rulings in favor of the Guild on numerous unfair-labor-practice charges may spur the company to negotiate.

Schick said he'd sensed a slight change in attitude in the company's willingness to settle two recent grievances and to negotiate a little over health plans. In the past, he said, the company's attitude has been: "Take it or leave it."

"I think the climate is right now… to push the company back to the bargaining table,'' Schick said. "There is a window of opportunity we haven't had in three years."

Members also approved the new health plan structure, with a couple of dissensions in the voice vote. The company has proposed increasing co-pays in the United PPO and the Cigna plans, as well as offering a fourth plan involving after-tax, up-front cash payments with high-deductible insurance.

The plan that most Guild members belong to, the United HMO, remains unchanged.

Schick urged any members considering the new fourth plan to study it carefully and think hard about the choice, because the new plan could result in considerable out-of-pocket costs for employees.

As part of the deal, the company is offering domestic-partner coverage, something the Guild has sought for years, and an optional medical savings account that enables employees to set aside pre-tax earnings to pay for uncovered health services, such as eyeglasses, dental work and co-pays.

Guild member Tracy Breton asked why the Guild would agree to a plan that increased costs to enrollees in Cigna and United PPO. Guild Secretary John Hill explained that it was important to signal a willingness to negotiate, and pointed out that the medical savings account --added to mix as a result of Guild bargaining -- mitigates the effect of the increased co-pays. Breton accused the Guild of selling out sicker people. Thirty-four members are enrolled in the affected plans.

Hill asked Breton to consider "the greater good." The company's decision to talk with the Guild rather than imposing the plans, Hill said, "was a test of our sincerity and willingness to negotiate. If we turn this down, we're sending them a message that we don't want to talk."

The Journal has agreed that the Guild's approval of the new structure does not jeopardize the National Labor Relations Board ruling that the company illegally imposed our current plans. Additionally, the vote did not address premium costs. We don't know what the premiums will be; but the company has said employees will pay 15 percent.

Members also unanimously voted to accept the terms of a five-year contract for Schick. The vote sends question to a mail-ballot referendum. The Executive Committee urges Guild members to vote "yes" when they receive their ballots next week.

"We wouldn't have the NLRB ruling without Tim,'' said Guild President Bob Jagolinzer.

Copyright © 2002 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
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