Protect collective bargaining!
On June 19, the Legislature sent the FY10 state budget to Governor Deval Patrick.
The Senate had included changes to municipal health insurance in its version of the budget that were not part of the final budget sent to the Governor.
But that does not mean the issue is dead.
Rather, it means that immediate action from MTA members is critical! The Legislature is likely to vote on the issue soon.
We need to weigh in with legislators right away to protect collective bargaining over our health insurance.
The Senate had added an amendment to its version of the budget that made changes to municipal health insurance. The speaker of the House, the Senate president and the governor have made clear for many months that they intend to save cities and towns money by forcing reductions in the cost of municipal health insurance.
The proposal that had been adopted by the Senate used the cost of insuring municipal employees through the Group Insurance Commission as a benchmark. The GIC currently provides health insurance to state employees and to some municipal employees who have negotiated to join the GIC.
Under the Senate plan, if a city or town's costs were higher than the amount it would cost to get health insurance through the GIC, the city or town would negotiate, through coalition bargaining, a health insurance plan that reached the benchmark either through the GIC or through another insurer. If the costs were below the benchmark, then no changes would be required to a community's health insurance.
In the Senate version, retirees would only be given a seat at the table if the community had to engage in coalition bargaining because the cost of the community's health insurance was above the GIC benchmark.
Under the plan, collective bargaining for municipal health insurance was protected, and unions were able to negotiate how the savings from cost reductions would be shared between the municipality and the employees. In addition, the proposal included a fair dispute-resolution system that would be triggered if the parties could not agree.
The Senate provision on health insurance was not included in the FY10 budget that was passed by the Legislature. That means it is very likely that the Legislature will soon consider changes to municipal health insurance in separate legislation that seeks to help municipalities reduce costs. It is vital that the voices of MTA members are heard in this debate.
Collective Bargaining Threatened
Local officials, led by the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), lobbied hard to prevent the Senate language from being included in the final budget.
Why? Because the MMA will only support legislation if city and town officials have the sole power to determine the design of municipal employees' health insurance plans without collectively bargaining over them. The MMA also wants to do away with any fair dispute-resolution process so local officials alone can determine how the savings can be used.
The MTA is fighting to make sure that any change in municipal health insurance permits collective bargaining and gives a voice to retirees in decisions about their health insurance.
Send a message to your state legislators TODAY. Ask the legislators to protect collective bargaining for health insurance, provide a fair dispute-resolution process and make sure that retirees are included in decision making about their health insurance.
Contact your legislators.