For Medical Coverage
Small Table Report
Tuesday, June 20th, 2000
As promised, General Electric began with a roll-out
of their proposals concerning medical insurance. The company did
offer some improvements here and there, but these were merely the
"hors d’oeuvres" leading to a main course of massive
cost shifting to employees. The centerpiece of GE’s attack is a
"reverse COLA", under which employees will be on the hook
for automatic contribution increases every year that GE’s claimed
"per family unit" medical costs go up to any appreciable
Under GE’s proposal, the company's aggregate
medical costs could actually go down (as they have in recent
years) and employees’ contributions would still go up if
the "family unit costs" go up. If this wasn’t bad
enough, the company also proposed big increases in prescription
co-pays — including those for retirees — as well as a 33%
increase in the Health Care Preferred (HCP) office visit co-pay.
Another item concerned a new definition of
"reasonable, necessary, and customary" under which
employees could be denied certain prescription drugs or would be
obliged to have "the least intensive level of care" as
determined by some benefits administrator for medical conditions.
Naturally, the entire union small table committee
refused to sit still for such major concessions and told GE that
they were totally unacceptable. GE chief Negotiator Dennis Rocheleau
offered his usual glib defense of company proposals, but in the area
of the high level of co-pays for generic drugs even he was forced to
admit that GE "led the pack."
GE did offer improvements in preventive care
schedules, the lifetime maximums, the dental schedule, and hearing
aids among other improvements. For the most part the company vision
care proposal amounted to only $5 increases, however. These and
other improvements were overshadowed by what is clearly GE’s worst
insurance takeaway proposals in recent and not so recent memory.
In the afternoon, GE made an initial pension offer
which can best be described as microscopic. Its $25 billion pension
surplus notwithstanding, GE offered only tiny improvements in basic
pensions and absolutely nothing on early retirement, pension
supplements, disability pensions, or integration of supplements with
the rising Social Security age. GE did offer a career earnings
pension "update" as well as a modest reduction in the
level of mandatory pension contributions. Nevertheless, even by GE
standards the company’s opening gambit on pensions was miserly. We
have no intention, however, of playing Cratchit to GE’s Scrooge.
One note of interest; GE, which proclaims itself as
the company which "brings good things to life", proposed
to eliminate coverage for fertility treatments. On Wednesday,
GE will make proposals on job and income security and wages.
UE was represented at the small table by General
President John Hovis and UE-GE Conference Board Secretary Steve
The Pension and Insurance Subcommittee met through
the day on Tuesday. UE local representatives joined delegates from
other CBC unions in mounting a steady barrage of outrage aimed at
improving GE’s inferior pension plan, and denouncing company
demands for more medical and prescription cost shifting.
GE’s "three-legged-stool" retirement
concept was roundly and soundly condemned, and specific demands for
real and substantial pension improvements were driven home.
Considerable time was also spent making the case for
improvements in short and long-term disability benefits.
Subcommittee members also demanded that GE fully negotiate the terms
of Health Care Preferred (HCP), the plan to which nearly 80% of the
GE workforce is enrolled.
UE was represented at the Pension and Insurance
Subcommittee table by Dave Adams, Local 506; Chris Barrickman, Local
731; Ted Bradley, Local 1010; Bill Callahan, Local 751 and Joyce
Sumner, Local 332.
The Contract Language Subcommittee met
simultaneously, with UE local representatives adding their voices to
a chorus of denunciations aimed at GE’s relentless downsizing.
Subcommittee co-chair and UE Local 506 Business
Agent Pat Rafferty blasted GE’s refusal to seriously address the
needs of its workforce in the critical area of job security. Job
security issues consumed this Subcommittee's entire day, with
delegates demanding an end to GE’s phony 45 day
"bargaining" over job transfers, outsourcing of jobs due
to "capacity" issues, and erosion of jobs via a host of
company schemes and subterfuges.
Subcommittee members also demanded that Job and
Income Security issues must be made subject to arbitration, and that
the company must be made to re-invest in U.S. plants and equipment as
a job-saving measure.
Substantial discussion regarding experiences with
"Job Preservation Steering Committees" yielded ample
evidence that GE management is uncommitted to the preservation of
anything other than the promotion of their own corporate careers.
UE was represented at the Contract Language
Subcommittee by Pat Rafferty, Local 506; Betsy Potter, Local 618;
Nita Gonzalez, Local 1010 and UE International Representative Chris