By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Unionized employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home will be asked to make a choice between switching their health insurance provider to a lower-cost plan and qualify for pay raises, or sticking with the current HMO plan and passing up pay raises. Belknap County Commissioners voted two to one Wednesday morning to approach the union representing employees with that choice.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the recent rejection of a proposed contract by a 33-14 vote of the union members seemed to be centered on the $3,000 deductible for family plans in the new health insurance plan in the contract. He said employees would have gotten an increase in compensation due to the raises in pay and wellness benefits and reduced health insurance costs over the two years of the contract and that those increases are far more beneficial to employees than sticking with the current HMO plan.
A letter to the editor in yesterday's Laconia Daily Sun maintained that average earnings for employees of the bargaining unit would increase, as well as their retirement benefits, and that "the certain pluses outweigh the dollar risks" and that "if the status quo continues, everyone loses."
The letter, which was signed by Taylor and fellow members of the county's negotiating team – Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton); Roger Grey, a member of the public from Sanbornton; and County Administrator Debra Shackett – noted that 23 employees who would be covered by the contract are not entitled to vote because they do not pay union dues.
The commission's offer mirrored the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Teamsters Local 633 representing managerial and administrative employees and the State Employees Association representing corrections officers, which have been ratified by the members of both unions and approved by the Belknap County Delegation.
The two-year agreement includes a 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment for year one and 2 percent in the second year, as well as step increases of 3 percent a year. In addition, the county would have paid the full cost of the site-of-service health plan and employees would receive a a $1,000 bonus for changing their health insurance plan. Currently, employees pay 5 percent of the HMO health insurance plan, which amounts to $1,315 a year for a family plan.
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