Guild, EFE, Discuss Medical Plan Changes

MIAMI — The News Media Guild and EFE News Services discussed cost-saving options for the medical plan covering U.S. workers as talks resumed Tuesday.

The Madrid-based EFE is seeking a 15% reduction in its overall health care costs, but did not specify how the savings were to be achieved. In response, the Guild sought information from the UFW-CWA plan, the current insurer, for lower cost options. The Guild introduced the UFW-CWA insurance to EFE when workers organized in 2005, resulting in cost savings for the employer and improved benefits for employees.

The various options from the UFW-CWA would further reduce EFE’s costs from three to 10%, but would also increase deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of prescription drugs for employees. The current 0% payment for generic medications would remain in place under all options, and optical and dental benefits would also remain as-is under the options available from the UFW-CWA.

The Guild did not make a proposal, saying it needed to consult with its members about the various options. “The union will look for cost savings where it makes sense for members,” said Unit Chair Jorge Bañales, but, noting that EFE has substantially reduced personnel costs since 2006, he added “EFE has an obligation to do its part, too, for a work force that has had no wage improvements for three years.”

Meanwhile, the Guild and EFE discussed the future of U.S. operations as EFE is restructuring in Spain. EFE reiterated that the company has no plans to reduce the U.S. workforce, despite buyouts and other voluntary measures aimed at reducing 275 positions in Spain. To the contrary, EFE said it is contemplating reducing the number of “stringers” and increasing the number of U.S. employees to strengthen news coverage.

Talks will resume Wednesday.

The Guild was represented by Jorge Bañales, unit chair, members Sonia Osorio and Andrew Pierce, and Tony Winton, the Guild’s chief negotiator.

EFE was represented by José Manuel Sanz, U.S. Vice President, and attorney Rudy Gómez.