HOPF: Trimmed back benefits being added to contracts to continue in the future

Posted: Aug. 28, 2011 12:17 am Updated: Nov. 29, 2014 6:17 am

Local government employees under union contracts should see a boost in their overall pay, but changes in contracts are the start of an effort to trim back benefits, especially as budgets remain strained.

The only way many of the changes can be implemented is if they start for new hires.

In Quincy, the city has attempted to start creating a tiered benefit program for new hires, similar to pension reform bills that were approved at the state level over the last two years. However, there has been no action on non-union benefits.

Those covered under the Machinists and bus driver union contracts are seeing the amount of sick time and major medical leave trimmed down. New full-time bus drivers will also start contributing 15 percent of the cost of their health care premiums, while new part-time drivers will contribute 20 percent. Drivers on the Quincy University route will have the option to receive coverage if they cover 50 percent of the premiums.

It is not much of a secret that there is a push for municipal governments to try to rein in some of their health insurance costs.

Days when an employer pays the entire cost of health insurance are on the decline, and the city of Quincy is beginning that push to cover premium increases. The city spends $659 per month per employee on individual health insurance and half the cost of dependent coverage, totaling $390,000 a month.

The city has talked about developing a high-deductible plan with a health savings account for employees to save money, but it is still in the preliminary stages.

Adams County is seeing monthly premium increase from $466 to $597, which is expected to cost the county $380,000. While premiums were not changed for individual employees of Adams County, workers are also seeing deductibles for dependent coverage increase 73 percent. There were also minor changes to the county's prescription drug coverage co-pay.

The city of Quincy has finalized contracts with the workers covered by the Machinists union and the bus drivers union. Those covered under the Machinists union are receiving a 38-cent raise each year, while bus drivers will receive a 2 percent bump for the first two years and a 2.25 percent increase during the third year. Non-union employees with the city are receiving a 1.5 percent pay raise for the year.

The new contracts are replacing one-year deals that contained no general pay increases, which expired April 30.

Contracts with police patrol officers, police supervisors and the firefighters have yet to be reached. The firefighters union and the city entered arbitration in July. The decision of the arbitrator is not expected for another few weeks. While negotiations with the patrol officers and police supervisors continue, a favorable arbitration ruling for the firefighters will likely send police to arbitration, which was narrowly avoided last year.

At the county level, three-year contracts approved last year gave no general raises to members of the bargaining units during the first year with 2 percent pay raises in the second and third year. Employees for the Quincy-Adams County 911 system, which is jointly run between the city and the county, remains under their contract with 2 percent raises in the two final year.

Unless a major boost to city or county coffers occurs in the next year, the trend to roll back benefits will continue.



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