Boston Unions and City Use Collective Bargaining Process to Achieve Landmark Agreement

BASAS, AFSA Local 6, Part of Successful Negotiations
Originally published in the summer 2011 edition of The Leader

A coalition of Boston public employee unions, including BASAS (Boston Association of School Administrators and Supervisors, AFSA Local 6) signed a landmark four-year agreement with the Menino administration that will save the city and taxpayers an estimated $70 million in public employee health insurance costs.

Using the existing collective bargaining process and laws, the unions agreed to a plan that will bring the city’s health care costs and plan designs more in line with coverage offered through the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which provides insurance coverage to state and higher education workers. The agreement was signed in April by the unions and Mayor Menino at Boston City Hall.

The agreement was the result of intensive negotiating sessions between the union coalition representing every union public employee in the city, including Boston school administrators, and the Menino administration. The coalition thinks the agreement proves there is no need to strip school leaders, firefighters, public works employees and hundreds of thousands of other public employees of basic union rights.

“Anyone who doubts that meaningful reform can still be achieved within the confines of existing collective bargaining laws and processes need only look at what we have accomplished in just a few short months by working cooperatively with the Menino administration,” said Jen Springer, a lead negotiator for the union coalition.

The union’s agreement includes a 2.5 percent increase in premium contribution rates, as well as increases in co-payments for prescription drugs, office visits and emergency room care. This premium contribution rate increase is on top of a 5 percent increase accepted by the unions in the most recent contract agreement.

The new agreement with the city also includes the elimination of the Master Medical Plan for retirees—the most expensive health care plan offered to employees—effective Jan. 1, 2012. The Master Medical Plan has been closed to active employees for the past year.

The concessions by the unions will reduce overall plan costs for the city, but will shift more of the remaining cost burden to city employees. Union leaders involved in the negotiations are calling for more long-term meaningful reform that will reduce the cost of health care instead of merely shifting more costs to public- and private sector workers.