If I am not mistaken, today is the day that mediation begins between the city and its unions who have filed a complaint regarding the percentage of health insurance premiums the city has paid. It seems likely that mediation will lead to more formal proceedings with state labor board and then to binding arbitration.
For the record, arbitration costs $1500 per day. And when you add in the legal fees that the whole process will require, it is going to cost many thousands of dollars to the taxpayers of North Adams.
Based upon my amateur interpretation of the raw data from the city, the employees have a very strong case. If the contracts say that the premium split is 70/30, then that number should be based on the real numbers, not an insurance consultant's recommendation. A percentage of the money that the city did not pay in to the fund because of lower than projected claims should have been rebated to employees through premium holidays or the money should STILL be in the fund to offset future claims.
Neither of these things happened.
It bothers me greatly that, when given an opportunity to save the city money when the employees put forth a good faith effort to resolve this in a cost-effective way, the council and the mayor balked.
Now, the door appears shut on that option.
After reviewing the documents and wading through morass that is Massachusetts Insurance Law I have a few more questions I would like answered:
- Who determines the premiums for the insurance policy?
- How are those premiums determined from year to year and the occasional mid-year hike?
- Why does the city not utilize the insurance committee, as the Massachusetts General Laws suggests, to determine premiums and coverage?
- Why does the city transfer money into the trust fund from other accounts ($1.3 million over the past 5 years) rather than allocate sufficient money in the budget to cover the projected claims?
If we want to prevent this from happening in the future, we need to understand what has actually happened.