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UE Locals Focus On
GE’s Insurance ‘Vision’

PITTSBURGH

UE-GE Conference Board
 
Representatives of UE-GE Locals discuss developments.

Expect General Electric to ask employees to pay even more for health care when national negotiations take place in 2000. That is the warning received by UE local leaders from GE plants who met here May 29 for a meeting of the UE-GE Conference Board.

GE workers can expect the company’s "continuing assault on our benefits" to be a disruptive factor in the next round of negotiations, predicted Stephen Tormey, Conference Board secretary.

GE's 'VISION' ...

In last year’s national negotiations, GE presented a "future vision" involving a choice of company-sanctioned health plans, Tormey reminded the UE-GE officers and stewards. GE will determine which is the "best performing plan in the local market," with employees expected to pay any difference in cost between it and any other medical plans.

GE has already driven a majority of UE-represented employees out of the traditional Comprehensive Medical Benefits plan and into the GE Health Care Preferred (HCP), he said. HCP developed as an "option" outside of collective bargaining; this means that a majority of workers are now in a plan not fully negotiated by the union, Tormey added.

GE is probably correct in its assertions that the late 1990s will see a resumption of medical cost inflation, said Tormey. This is fueled in large part by the trend towards mergers and acquisitions by large for-profit health care corporations — acting on business principles GE understands very well.

... "YOU PAY MORE"

"GE’s solution for inflation is the same as it’s always been: you pay more," said Tormey. In fact, GE continued to demand that workers pay an even greater share of health insurance costs even as its aggregate insurance costs declined, as they have throughout the 1990s, he said.

With fewer major industrial corporations providing health benefits to pensioners, GE retirees’ health benefits may also be at risk, the Conference Board secretary warned.

The real solution, Tormey said, would be a single-payer health insurance system as advocated by UE and the Labor Party.

In the meantime delegates agreed on the need to prepare early to resist another round of cost shifting by GE.

Conference Board delegates also received a warning about Social Security — and not that the system is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Instead, UE Research Dir. David Alexander revealed that Wall Street speculators and right-wing politicians are using false claims and erroneous assumptions to discredit the nation’s most popular government program in a plan to privatize the multi-billion-dollar system.

THE UE-GE DIFFERENCE

Leading local reports was the news that settlement of a grievance gives some Local 1010 members a total cash settlement of nearly quarter of a million dollars.

Local 332 members recently walked out of the Fort Edward, N.Y. capacitor plant to protest the company’s expansion of subcontracting. Safety was also a factor, reported Local Pres. Joyce Sumner. Subcontractors who moved the plant’s computer room failed to lock down and tag out properly, leaving themselves and workers exposed to live wires. "They were not as knowledgeable as our own folks," she said.

Phil Pizzi and Chris Barrickman of Local 731, Conneaut, Ohio reported on the settlement of a grievance which will guarantee consideration of lateral moves for future job openings.

Reports from several locations indicated that the company is pushing a new policy against workplace violence; delegates agreed that the policy could be used as another excuse to unfairly get rid of workers.

Genl. Pres. John Hovis reported on ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE Unions, including steps to increase involvement by local leaders throughout the multi-union coalition. The union leader noted that while there is still much to be done, the CBC is on record as trying to improve and expand its efforts in the areas of organizing, education, communication and research.

UE News - 06/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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