In yet another instance in which health benefits play a major role in union negotiations, Verizon employees cite that company's plan to make workers pay part of the premium as a major sticking point in talks.
"It's the health care issues," Karen Porada-Allen, of Hawthorne, N.J., tells the Bergen County Record. "This time, given what is going on in the nation, you have to be concerned about health care, and that's the bottom line for me."
Health care has cropped up continually this year during talks between unions and major employers such as General Electric and Ford.
In the case of Verizon, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers waived a strike deadline on Aug. 3 to continue talking. Under the recently expired contract, Verizon's 78,000 employees make a copayment, but do not pay a portion of the premium.
Company spokesman Ed Rabe tells the newspaper that employees at many large companies now pay up to 25 percent of their insurance premiums.
Verizon cites an increase of 12 percent in health care costs in the past year in making its case that workers are going to have to pay more.
CWA spokesman Bob Master says that fact may not be relevant. "We're not blind to the problem of increased medical costs. But none of the unionized telecommunications companies, including the ones that are on the verge of bankruptcy, require employees to share the cost of insurance premiums."
Another union official further contends that Verizon, "a very healthy company," can afford to continue paying the insurance premiums.