Boston Globe publisher Steve Ainsley is back with a lengthy e-mail to employees disputing yesterday’s e-mail by Boston Newspaper Guild insurance consultant Bonnie Hanisch. Media Nation obtained a copy earlier this morning.
I realize these internal communications are becoming increasingly arcane. I present them solely in the interest of placing them in the public domain.
On Monday, the Guild will vote on the latest $10 million package in concessions negotiated by union leadership with the New York Times Co. The text of Ainsley’s e-mail follows:
Yesterday an email was distributed by BNG leadership providing Guild members with an analysis of the health care costs under the current conditions vs. under the tentative agreement that you will be voting on this coming Monday, July 20.
We feel that this analysis is flawed, and very misleading. We hope all Guild members have a chance to read the following information before Monday. If there are further questions, please let us know. You deserve accurate information about such an important issue.
Q&A Health Care Costs
Q. The Guild’s health care consultant has sent some recent e-mails purporting to show what the new payroll deductions would be effective July 24th. Is this accurate?
A. In a word, no. Health insurance rates will not change effective 7/24/09 under any circumstance. Health insurance rates are set jointly by Union and Globe management Health Fund trustees. In order to change rates the trustees must meet and agree on a new rate structure. This has not happened and will not happen by July 24th. The rates listed by the Union consultant have not been agreed to by the trustees.
Q. Will there be higher health insurance rates if the contract is ratified?
A. The Globe recognizes that if the tentative agreement is ratified with the necessary reduction in quid pro quo payments, this may result in either some additional payroll contributions required by plan participants or a restructuring of the plan to reduce its cost or, more likely, some combination of the two. How much of either may be necessary is unclear at this point. The Globe has suggested to the Union that as part of the rate-setting process that the trustees work together with the plan provider, Harvard Pilgrim, on ways to mitigate the increase through plan design or other changes in cost we can negotiate with Harvard Pilgrim. That has not happened yet. There is a substantial reserve in the Fund which will allow the trustees some time to negotiate with Harvard Pilgrim. We have successfully done this with a number of our other unions and with the Guild, in the past, as well. Projecting rates now, prior to necessary trustee action, is pure speculation.
Q. Is it also correct as the Union states, that if the contract is not ratified that health insurance rates will be lower?
A. Just as trustees must approve an increase in rates, their approval is required to lower rates. The trustees have not agreed to lower rates. If the contract is not ratified, the current rates will stay in effect until such time as they are changed by the trustees. The trustees have a fiduciary duty to ensure that rates are set appropriately. There is currently no information to suggest that drastic reduction in rates, as is suggested by the Union’s consultant, is financially sound or justified. The reserve exists in order to assure bills to health providers are paid without interruption and employees’ health insurance premiums remain as consistent as possible. The right amount to keep in reserves is decided by the trustees.
Q. What is the role of the Union’s health care consultant?
A. The Union’s health care consultant is a paid advisor to the Union and to the Union trustees on health care issues. The Globe has its own health care consultant who performs a similar role for the Globe. The consultants are not members of the joint board of trustees. As a result, the Union’s health care consultant has no authority to set rates or to implement changes unless and until the trustees as a group approve of any such rates or changes.
Q. Has the Union endorsed the new contract?
A. The Union Executive Committee agreed in negotiations that with the changes the Globe made to its prior final offer, the Committee would “endorse and recommend ratification” to the membership. The Union President signed a side letter which said that expressly, and the individual members of the Committee all signed the tentative Supplemental Agreement….
A final note, we very much hope that the tentative agreement with the Guild is approved on Monday, so we can move past the current imposed wage reduction.
Absent a positive ratification vote, the current wage reduction will continue and the Globe will focus its attention entirely on negotiations in the fall to replace the existing Guild contract which expires fully on December 31, 2009. The Globe, of course, would seek all the changes it needs in all cost and flexibility areas in that new agreement.
Hopefully, after Monday, we all can move forward with the stability of a settled contract through the end of 2010.
We urge everyone to vote.