Globe staffers sound healthcare alarm
Just received an email sent from several Globe staffers to the leadership of the Boston Newspaper Guild (with the exception of the embattled Dan Totten), in which they ask the union to find some way to avoid implementation of what sounds like a very bare-bones healthcare plan.
In terms of management-union and intra-union dynamics at the Globe, what's really striking is the paragaph in which the signers claim they received misleading information from the NYT Co. on the prospect of reduced employer contributions--and that, if they'd been given accurate info, many employees might have voted "No" instead of "Yes" back in July. I've bolded the section in question
Here's the memo in its entirety:
Dear Scott, Jim, Patrice, Carl, Kathy and David,
In this year of relentless bad news, nothing has shocked or upset us more than the sudden cuts to our health care coverage announced this month. We are grateful for your hard work, and we want to work with our union leadership to change course away from a plan that will bring deep distress to Globe workers and their families.
If this plan takes effect, the Globe will eliminate all but catastrophic health care coverage for a large portion of its employees, while charging substantially higher weekly premiums. This devastating plan, devised with no input from union members, would leave many of us facing thousands of dollars’ worth of medical bills, paying out-of-pocket for prescription drugs, or making financial calculations every time we need to take our children to the doctor’s office. It’s an outrageous burden to place on employees who have already agreed to cut their salaries and to pay higher premiums for their benefits.
We know you know this. As you work with management, we’d like to share the facts we have researched to make a case for a different way. We’ve been stunned and saddened to learn how poorly the Globe compares to companies nationwide when it comes to providing health benefits. Here are some facts, based on a report released this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust:
· The average company nationwide contributes 83 percent of the premiums for employees’ individual health care plans and 73 percent for family plans. Since the Guild contract was ratified in July, the Globe now contributes only 54 percent of employees’ premiums.
· Compared to the average health care plan nationwide, our health plan will cost almost three times as much in annual premiums for individuals and 47 percent more for families beginning on October 1.
· Compared to other high-deductible plans, which tend to have low annual premiums, the Globe’s proposed new bare-bones health plan would charge double the national average for families and five times the national average for individuals, based on the rates going into effect October 1. (We haven't been told specific rates for January 1, but we have been led to expect them to be almost as high.)
These would be stunning figures for any major corporation, but they’re especially surprising for a company whose mission statement calls for “fair treatment of employees based on respect, accountability and standards of excellence.” Both the New York Times and the Boston Globe have well-documented public stances on the need for affordable health care, as well as the need for employers to contribute fairly to their workers’ health benefits.
As the union knows all too well, a health care plan this stingy is not good business; it’s bad for retention and recruitment, and damaging to the Globe’s reputation as a community leader. Two top candidates for prominent jobs in Sports recently told Globe staff members that the expensive health insurance plan was a major consideration when they turned down the opportunity to work at the Globe. And it must be noted that this plan will take effect at a time when New York Times union members have been told that their own, smaller salary cuts will soon be rescinded.
In the weeks leading up to July’s contract ratification, Guild members received information about health care that was misleading. In a Q&A for employees distributed on July 17, the company said the health care trustees could “work together with the plan provider, Harvard Pilgrim, on ways to mitigate the increase [in health care costs].” The same Q&A noted that “there is a substantial reserve in the [health care] Fund which will allow the trustees some time to negotiate with Harvard Pilgrim.” The implication was that health care costs would not rise substantially after the contract was ratified and that coverage would be preserved. Had members understood the consequences of the company’s reduction in health care contributions, and calculated the real loss of income that would represent, many would have voted “no” instead of “yes.”
For all of these reasons – moral, ethical, and legal – please do everything in your power to help Guild members avoid this significant hardship. We are ready to help you however we can. We believe a company this size should do better for its employees. And because Boston Globe and New York Times Company executives have publicly stated that the Globe is on a stronger financial footing, we believe the Globe can do better. We have every hope that it will.