Star wants to shift more healthcare burden to employees

Star management has told the Guild it wants our members to bear the full burden of any health insurance cost increases for 2016, a troubling move that would amount to a pay cut for insured workers.

The Star wants to keep its contributions to our health insurance at 2015 levels, said Gannett HR business partner Julie Sawyer. The move comes even though health care costs are growing nationally by 7 to 10 percent.

The Star announced its intentions to freeze its contribution level after the Guild brought the company a rate quote from the United Furniture Workers that forecasts cost increases for 2016 at 4 to 6 percent. The benefits under the coverage — co-pays, deductibles and drug plans — would remain at 2015 levels.

Most people insured through the Guild’s plan would see their share of the insurance burden increase from $18 to $82 per month — increases ranging from 13 to 27 percent.

Guild leaders are deeply concerned about the potential cut into take-home pay. In response, we have proposed to split the burden of the cost increases with the company. Short of that compromise, Guild leaders are considering what collective action to call for from our members. The Guild’s window for action is short, however, as contractual deadlines and open enrollment windows approach.

The Star has not yet announced information about its rates and coverage levels for Gannett’s United Healthcare plan. Sawyer said she expects the 2016 insurance benefits package for the company plan to remain unchanged from 2015. She said she expects to hear information about the rate structure by Oct. 20.

Gannett’s annual ritual of shifting more health insurance costs to workers — while reducing benefits — led the Guild in 2014 to seek insurance through a third-party administrator. Essentially, the Guild negotiated with Gannett for the right to take their health insurance contributions and buy a better plan.

The result was coverage through the United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund, a nonprofit organization that serves union members. The new insurance offered lower deductibles, better drug plans and co-payments — all at similar and in some cases lower costs than Gannett’s plan. The feedback from members has been strongly positive about the move, with many members urging us to renew with the UFW for 2016.

Guild leaders are asking members for their feedback and urging them to stay tuned to a situation that could require quick action.

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