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Impact of bill on minimum health care contribution level for public employees at CMU uncertain

The state senate approved a bill last week that requires all public employees to make a 20 percent minimum contribution to their health care costs.

Whether public university employees are considered public employees remains to be seen, said Lori Hella, interim associate vice president of Human Resources.

“There is question about its applicability to state universities,” she said. “We’re keeping our eye on it.”

Currently, the amount CMU employees contribute to their health costs varies by employee group, Hella said.

“It’s determined by collective bargaining agreements,” she said.

Any future agreements need to go through that process, whether or not university employees are considered public employees.

Tim Connors, Faculty Association president and Communications and Dramatic Arts professor said he is opposed to the bill because independent jurisdictions should determine the benefits their employees receive.

Connors said the Faculty Association is “not happy” with the legislation.

“What that means is local government and local organizations of any kind… are now being told you are no longer able to make your own decisions, we, the state, have made that decision for you,” Connors said. “Those decisions should be made locally. If Union Township decides to pay 97 percent of health costs for employees, they should be able to do that.”

Contract negotiation updates

Faculty Association contracts are still in negotiation, Connors said.

“We are meeting twice a week, and that’s about the extent … of what I can reveal,” he said. “We are meeting and moving ahead.”

The Supervisory and Technical Association negotiations have reached a standstill and the group and university will meet with a mediator June 2 and 6, said Mark Blackmer, a maintenance and repair technician and a member of the negotiating committee for the association.

He said the group and the university have been in negotiations since March 2010.

Blackmer said the university is requesting the group take a pay cut and that is a key issue keeping the group from reaching an agreement.

“We would like more money, basically, and to not take a cut in pay, which is something Central has been pretty adamant we do,” he said. “We just don’t feel Central’s finances justify that.”

Kevin Smart, director of employee relations, said he could not discuss the issues preventing the groups reaching a consensus beyond discrepancies on wages and benefits.

“Hopefully the state mediator will help us reach an agreement,” Smart said. “We don’t discuss the specific issues that are holding us apart in the press. We don’t want to spoil conditions for possible resolution.”

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