AP proposes sweeping changes to health care, severance, transfers

The bargaining team for Associated Press management proposed Thursday sweeping changes to health care, along with severance pay and transfers.

In addition to a more expensive plan for 2014, management proposed a plan beginning in 2015 called a consumer-driven health plan with a health savings account. The proposal for 2015 includes a “wellness surcharge” that requires employees to meet three of four health targets or face additional charges.

Those targets involve: body mass index, healthy cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure.

The Guild told the company that the health care proposal is more expensive for the employees, intrusive and punitive.

To see the health care proposal, click here. To see the other company proposals, click here:

The company said the health care proposal is for the editorial and technology units and that the other proposals are likely to be similar.

The Guild bargainers aren’t familiar with a consumer-driver health plan and will work with a consultant to determine the effect of the company proposal on employees.

The proposal includes a requirement that spouses and same-sex domestic partners to enroll in their own employer’s plan and provide proof of that enrollment before being allowed to enroll in AP’s plan. Employees whose spouses have no over coverage available could enroll in the AP plan but would have to provide a signed affidavit each year.

The company says that of the 1,021 union-covered employees enrolled in AP’s medical plans, 519, or 51 percent, opt to cover their spouses or same-sex domestic partners.

The company said the plan is new but more employers will be moving toward similar arrangements because of federal health-care mandates.

On severance, management wants to cap the payment at 52 weeks of combined notice/dismissal indemnity and severance for all employees. That would be capped at 26 weeks for employees hired after Sept. 1, 2013. The company said that would allow managers to take a chance on hiring someone and help address staffing shortages.

The severance now is capped at 72 weeks with more weeks available in some cases.

On transfers, the company wants to be able to move staffers to a different location for “just and sufficient cause,” the standard it must use when considering a discharge. It says it wants the right so it can avoid firing some employees who may be saved by working in a new environment. The company would pay transfer expenses.

The company also proposed transferring employees to “address staffing imbalances in one location and staffing vacancies in another location.” The union said the AP concern is already addressed by the contract. When there is a staff reduction, employees are offered vacancies they are qualified to perform. The company is reviewing several questions raised by the union.

Employees declining a transfer would receive the new severance that’s the company proposed.

In other areas, the company wants to eliminate the daily minimum travel reimbursement of $15; staffers would get their actual mileage instead. Managers also want to pay a minimum of one hour of overtime for work performed after the end of a shift when the staffer doesn’t have to return to the office or a news venue.

The company also wants a provision that no employee may use AP equipment for outside work or any other business purpose.