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BARGAINING: Guild tells AP its health proposal would cancel raise

News Media Guild negotiators told The Associated Press on Friday that the company’s proposal to increase insurance premiums will cancel out the small raises offered by the company.

The Guild told the AP that its health care proposal hiked costs too high for Guild employees. The company responded that employees need to shoulder more of rising health care costs.

The AP has proposed a $1,000 lump sum payment in 2018, followed by 1.5 percent pay raises in 2019 and 2020. The AP said that such a proposal would result in a $6,170 pay boost over four years for top-scale employees. The AP said the average salary, which is above top scale, would see an increase in pay of $7,034 over four years.

The health costs would eclipse those numbers for some employees, especially lower-paid employees with family plans.

The vast majority of bargaining unit employees are on the premium health care plan. For an employee with a family plan, he or she would pay $9,468 more in medical and dental premiums through 2021 under the AP proposal. An employee plus children plan would cost $6,408 more over the same period, while an employee plus child plan would cost $3,780 more.

The employee plus spouse plan would cost $6,444 more and the individual plan would cost $2,340 more through 2021.

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Those figures don’t include added costs that employees may see because of increases to deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums and changes to prescription drug coverage, all of which have been proposed by AP.

The Guild also pressed the company for information on how much it’s saved by restricting spouses from the health insurance plan, beginning in 2017. The AP said that 95 spouses were removed from the plan last year, but it was unable to say whether they were removed because of the spousal restriction or other reasons.

The Guild also asked how much the AP took in from employees who did not complete the wellness program and instead paid a $50/month penalty. The AP said that 107 employees did not complete the wellness steps last year, resulting in $64,200 paid in wellness penalties. In 2016, there were 89 employees who did not participate, resulting in $53,400 in wellness penalties.

The deadline for employees to complete all wellness requirements to avoid the $50/month penalty this year is March 31.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle, Guild administrator Kevin Keane and health insurance consultant Linda Gaal.

Representing the AP were Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Steve Macri, AP’s attorney; Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; Ellen Fegan, vice president for internal audit; and Hilda Auguste, human resources manager.

Bargaining will resume Feb. 26.