Collective bargaining for health insurance at risk

The House on June 5 passed a Municipal Relief bill that will allow some local communities to increase fees but rejected allowing communities to raise taxes on things such as meals and telecommunications equipment.  The House also defeated a plan to allow slot machines at the state's racetracks for five years.

The bill as drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee did not include language to allow employers in Joint Purchasing Groups (JPGs) to make changes in health insurance benefits without bargaining over them.  An amendment was offered by Rep. Mary Rogeness (R-Longmeadow) to give employers this right but it was defeated by a voice vote by the House.

The bill does include an option to allow communities to offer an early retirement incentive for municipal employees.  An amendment to allow teachers to participate was defeated on a voice vote.

An MTA amendment, sponsored by Rep. Paul Kujawski (D-Webster), was included in the bill.  This provision would require all towns and regional school districts that do not provide retiree health insurance to do so if voted by a town meeting or regional school committee instead of being required to provide such coverage by local referenda as current law requires.

The bill permits municipalities to pay employees on a bi-weekly or bi-monthly basis.  An MTA amendment, filed by Rep. Elizabeth Malia (D-Boston) passed that adds a proviso that provisions of a collective bargaining agreement prevail.  This amendment protects any of our local contracts that may contain provisions for weekly payments.

There were over 100 amendments filed to the bill yesterday and many are not yet printed.  We will continue to analyze them and sent out additional information the provisions of the bill.

What's Next?
The Senate will consider their version of the Municipal Relief bill next week.  It is expected that they will try to give the local communities more ability than the House to increase local revenues.  There also may be an attempt to restrict collective bargaining over health insurance for employees who purchase it thought JBGs.  An amendment to do this was offered to the state budget by Sen. Andrew Nucifero (D-Pittsfield) but was defeated.

Action Needed
Please call or e-mail your Senator and urge them to vote again any attempts to rollback the rights of employees to negotiate over health insurance. 

Message to Your Senator

  • Educators are concerned about the rising cost of health care but the solution is not to hastily re-write current law (Chapter 150E or Chapter 32B) and take away our rights to bargain over health insurance benefits.
  • When considering the "Municipal Relief Bill," please vote against any attempt to rollback employees' rights to negotiate health insurance benefits.

Background
During consideration of the House and Senate budget in May, amendments were offered that would allow employers in joint purchasing groups (JPGs) to make changes in health insurance benefits without bargaining over them. There are 307 government entities that purchase health insurance through JPGs. Amendments offered by Rep. Dan Bosley (D-N. Adams) and Sen. Andrew Nucifero (D-Pittsfield) would eliminate bargaining over any decision by JPGs to "change, alter or eliminate any benefit or benefits."

The House did not act on the Bosley amendment and the Nucifero amendment was defeated by voice vote the Senate.

Both these amendments seek to overturn an April 2002 Labor Relations Commission (LRC) decision -- Dennis Firefighters vs. Town of Dennis. The LRC said that local employers who participate in a JPG must bargain over any change that employers seek to make including increasing deductibles and co-pays.