Unionized city workers will keep insurance benefits but lose family coverage under an agreement signed Thursday by union and city officials.
Earlier in the day, city workers voted 8-3 to ratify a new contract including the insurance provision after rejecting another proposal Wednesday.
The benefits they agreed on, and the city council approved in a special meeting, provide medical coverage and drug benefits to workers. However, the city will no longer offer family coverage to its workers, including those who already have it.
On Wednesday workers rejected an offer by the city to pay a portion of the drug benefit for both the family and single plans. That offer was coupled with a wage reduction for the water clerk position, which currently is vacant with the promotion of Becky Miller to city clerk.
“This was a pretty bitter pill for our folks to do,” said United Steelworkers representative Alan Sampson. “We did a lot of looking for an alternate plan but that was the best we could do.”
Workers who were on the family plan are upset, said Roger Harris, president of the Greenup union chapter. “But we reached a point where things had to come to a head and be settled,” he said.
Under the two-year contract, which also covers wage and other benefit issues, insurance coverage can be reopened for negotiation in a year.
Harris said he hopes by then the city can come up with “some alternative funding” to improve the insurance package and offer family coverage.
That is a possibility but far from a sure thing, according to Mayor Lundie Meadows. The city is running a $250,000 deficit and has a number of bond payments coming due that are squeezing the budget, he said.
It is likely to take closer to two years for Greenup to dig out, he said.
However, it was vital to settle the issue this week because the old insurance contract is expiring. The city is paying for one additional month under the old terms.
The insurance snafu came about because of a misunderstanding of insurance rates. City and union officials had agreed on coverage without drug benefits but the carrier would not sell one without the other.