Bargaining Update #2: Union Proposes 4% COLA, Management Suggests Bonus Instead

SEIU Local 1991 President Martha Baker, RN, put on the bargaining table a proposal for a 4% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) at Monday’s negotiation session.

She was flanked by AFSCME president Vivienne Dixon who simultaneously proffered the same proposal for her members, Jackson’s 5,000 service and tech workers.

Baker presented the solid rationale that Jackson unions have always mirrored the same COLA as the other Miami-Dade County unions and even gave up the same 5% reduction in recent years. The Miami-Dade County unions have already agreed to a 4% COLA for 2017 based on the increase to the County tax base.  Jackson receives a percentage of the County tax base.

“Our COLA has always been the same as every other County union; our proposal is consistent with that and there is no reason to break the long standing precedent,” said Baker.

Jackson Chief Financial Officer Mark Knight said at the end of the meeting that management would like to discuss a bonus model, but he said they weren’t ready to discuss specifics.  More details will come in future bargaining sessions.

Baker responded, “We would like to help find ways for Jackson to afford a COLA rather than talk about alternatives.  Our members have waited a long time for a COLA.”

The SEIU and AFSCME bargaining teams also had an in-depth discussion on insurance.  Management has proposed a few increases to co-pays (for ER visits and some drugs).  The unions asked several questions about usage and costs.  “We would like to work on a long term strategy to lower healthcare costs through more access to primary and preventative care rather that fight over who pays higher costs,” said Baker. “A wellness program would be a good start.”

The teams agreed to form a subcommittee to look at insurance efficiencies.

Both management and union teams agreed that encouraging employees to take the Jackson First or Select healthcare plans can produce a big savings for Jackson.  The Jackson First plan came about as a union efficiency proposal and has proven to be wildly successful for employees in the plan and Jackson’s bottomline.  It was agreed that employees need more education about both the Jackson First and the Select plans leading up to open enrollment.

“We need more education at the unit level, where the employees are,” said Mishell Warner, AFSCME vice president.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for August 9 at 1pm in DTC 259.  Members are encouraged to attend to show their support for our bargaining team.
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