ELYRIA TWP. — The chairwoman of the bargaining committee for the Lorain County Job and Family Services union offered no comment to a new statement from the county alleging the union is putting out “wrong and misleading” information.
When reached Friday, chairwoman Kelly Fields said she chose not to comment on the latest statement from the commissioners on the strike.
About 170 employees represented by the United Auto Workers Local 2192 have been striking since 12:01 a.m. Monday after contract negotiations broke down over spousal coverage in health care.
Michelle Maldonado, Amanda Klein and Diane Green picket at Elyria Avenue and North Ridge Road on Friday afternoon.
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Commissioners want a contract in which if an employee’s spouse has insurance available through his employer, the spouse would be required to be on his or her employer’s plan while county employees and children would stay on the county plan. If the spouse doesn’t have access to employer insurance or makes less than $25,000, the spouse could stay on the county plan.
If the spouse wants to stay on the county plan and does not meet any of the criteria, commissioners want the county employee to pay a surcharge in addition to the cost of the plan.
Fields said the union’s only issue with this is that the county has not said what the cost of the surcharge would be and likened it to commissioners asking workers to sign a blank check.
In a statement issued by the county Friday, County Administrator Jim Cordes said the union has been circulating “inaccurate and incomplete information” through a variety of sources and methods.
Cordes said the county has provided the union with all the information it has available and that the union “has been provided with information showing that overall claims costs for spouses are disproportionate when compared to the number of spouses currently covered under the plan and the claims costs for covered employees.”
He also said that the union has approved prior contracts without knowledge of future health care costs including the contract under question.
Cordes said the county can’t know what the surcharge will be because it won’t be implemented until 2019 and would be dependent upon health insurance trends and other factors.
“Obviously the county and the unions do not know when they negotiate a three-year contract what the health care rates will be for the second and third years of the contract,” Cordes said. “This process has existed for more than 20 years with all bargaining units in the county, including Local 2192.”
The workers have been without a contract since September 2016. Cordes said the union calling the surcharge a blank check is a “thinly-veiled excuse to reposition the attention away from the genuine matter of spousal coverage adjustments to the health care plan sought by the commissioners.”
He said because health care costs are determined annually, it is impossible to give the union an accurate amount for the surcharge.
“There is no way the commissioners can get actuarial information today for the impact of spousal coverage in health year 2019,” Cordes said. “This is what Kelly Fields is asking for, and quite frankly, the request is unrealistic.”
Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-245
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