DETROIT, June 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Albert Garrett, President of Michigan Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, issued the following statement:
"The members of AFSCME Local 1499, Ingham County Road Commission, have endured very difficult negotiations spanning the last two labor agreements and problems continue into these talks for a third contract, a one-year deal," stated Garrett. "Following Fact Finding with the Michigan Employee Relations Commission late last year, the parties entered into an agreement that included no increase in wages for 2010. The only item to be discussed was health insurance.
"AFSCME and our members at the Ingham County Road Commission have worked diligently to research affordable healthcare in these tough times. As a result of the effort, the Union has proposed a plan that would have saved the Road Commission approximately $179,000; about $15,000 a month, had it been agreed to in January of this year," continued Garrett. "In addition, the cheaper plan has significantly better coverage. Unfortunately the bargaining representatives for the Ingham County Road Commission have resisted this plan continually throughout the process. Some Road Commissioners have raised the issue of the healthcare bidding procedure of last year, using this to support their unwillingness to agree to the proposed plan.
"The current contract as agreed to and signed by both parties states: 'However, subject to a total Agreement being reached by the parties, the Employer agrees to a re-opener on health insurance only, for 2010, upon 10 calendar days notice by either party,'" noted Garrett.
"The new contract has no wage increases, and no language changes. The only issue on the table is the insurance plan," observed chief AFSCME negotiator Dan Hamilton. "It appears the Road Commission would rather show loyalty to a healthcare provider than save money. As a result, they're hurting the families of these workers as well as costing the tax payers money."
"It seems like every time we get close to solving our differences the goal moves a little bit farther away," asserted Chief Steward Bryan Wieferich. "They've gutted the in-house expertise on Human Resources and benefits, outsourcing it all to an attorney. I have to wonder if the hourly rate (paid to the attorney) doesn't give the wrong motivation."
Hamilton continued, "I think that the issue of expertise and authority to settle issues is a serious systemic problem here, but I see that as a 'big-picture' problem. In the short run, the Commission is paying too much for a healthcare plan that is not as good as the Union proposal and costs the Commission and the taxpayers more. We have members on layoff; why don't they take the taxpayers' dollars out of the pockets of the health insurance provider and their attorney and spend it on the employees out maintaining and repairing the roads?"
"Prior to the Road Commission meeting on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 the Union pre-ratified the proposal which was discussed during the recent mediation session. This proposal included the health insurance savings," Garrett explained. "Unfortunately and much to the bargaining units' disappointment the Road Commission did not ratify the proposal as agreed to by the Union. Instead they decided to attempt to bargain the health insurance beyond the expiration of the agreement, which expires on December 31, 2010. It appears as though suddenly the Commission is concerned about cost and is attempting to avoid additional cost during the subsequent years beginning on January 1, 2011 although not willing to bargain for a contract which would include this period of time.
"AFSCME will be meeting in the near future with the Bargaining Committee and will be exploring other options as provided for them under the Public Employees Relations Act," concluded Garrett.
Albert Garrett is also Michigan Vice President for AFSCME International. Michigan AFSCME Council 25 represents more than 90,000 public workers across Michigan. AFSCME International represents 1.4 million public workers nationwide. News releases issued by Michigan AFSCME Council 25 are available at http://laborweb.afscme.org/sites/MI_C_25.
SOURCE Michigan AFSCME Council 25