Unions negotiate freeze for state employee health insurance costs

Aug. 23, 2011 - Good news for Montana state employees!  Unions win out-of-pocket freeze in health insurance costs

 

Deal good for one year: 2012

 

A step beyond outrage 

It’s outrageous that Montana state employees must face yet another biennial freeze in base salaries.

 

There is simply no way to resign ourselves to the state legislature’s adamant, premeditated refusal to pass the union-negotiated and ratified state employee pay plan in House Bill 13.

 

But state employee unions can try to make things a bit better.

 

And we have . . . at least for the coming health insurance plan year.

 

MEA-MFT, the Montana Public Employees Association, and AFSCME — the unions that represent the vast majority of organized state employees in Montana — have worked a deal with Governor Brian Schweitzer to freeze, for the next plan year, increases in state employee health insurance costs.

 

Today, Tuesday, August 23, state health insurance officials announced our deal at the State Employee Group Benefits Advisory Council (SEGBAC).

 

Our deal will on average save each state employee $462 in projected health insurance cost increases.

 

Lower-salaried state employees will enjoy more relief with health insurance cost savings than will higher salaried state employees.

 

This fact should appeal to those legislators who stated they might have supported a 1% and 3% increase in pay for lower-salaried employees but could not support the same for higher-salaried employees.

 

Our deal means real pocketbook savings for thousands of Montana citizens: state employees ­(including a significant number of state legislators who participate in the state employee health insurance plan).

 

Yes, this action will eat into state employee health insurance plan reserves . . . but we believe reserves are adequate to cover unanticipated costs . . . and frankly, the state legislature could easily reach into its ending fund balance, now estimated to be over $425 million, to backfill reserves as may be necessary.

 

We commend Governor Schweitzer for his commitment to quality state employees and the Work They Do That Matters. And like the governor, we long for a day when state legislators owe up to and play fair with the money they have and reward their employees for jobs well done.

 

Maybe our unfair labor practice complaint set for hearing Dec. 15 will help in this regard.

 

Eric Feaver, President, MEA-MFT

Quinton Nyman, Executive Director, MPEA

Timm Twardoski, Executive Director, AFSCME
 

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