A second city union has settled a dispute over administrative changes that pushed secondary health insurance costs onto retirees and their families.

The settlement reached late last week was filed Monday with a Summit County judge, effectively ending a dispute that began as a grievance filed by the Civil Service Personnel Association nearly three years ago. The union of 260 white-collar city workers argued that any change to employee health care costs, even for retirees, should be bargained and not made through legislation crafted by the mayor and passed by council.

The 2016 legislation added monthly premiums for spouses and children, and set the cost for retirees at what active-duty employees pay for the secondary health insurance. Spouses of nonunion members were later forced to get primary insurance through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System before becoming eligible for the city’s supplemental insurance.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 and the Local 330 chapter of the International Association of Firefighters joined CSPA in grievances filed separately in the weeks after city leaders passed the cost-cutting laws. The police union took its grievance to an arbitrator, who ruled that the city acted in “bad faith” by enacting “unilateral” changes to the supplemental health coverage program for retirees and their families.

CSPA’s grievance never made it to arbitration, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

CSPA’s settlement signed June 21 is almost identical to the deal the city struck with the FOP in March. Members of both unions will be reimbursed 75 percent of costs incurred over the past two years. For the police union, that amounted to $145,000 in payments to retirees. The city has not calculated the cost for CSPA retirees, though city spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said the total repayment for invoiced health insurance costs provided by CSPA should be “significantly less than the FOP reimbursement.”

The city’s human resources office will notify affected CSPA retirees by mail about the settlement. The retirees will have one year to respond, enroll in a plan and tally up their invoices to seek a reimbursement.

Retirees will pay 50 percent the cost of supplemental health insurance, per the settlements with the FOP and CSPA.

"[CSPA] understood the city’s position on this issue but obviously had a different perspective," CSPA President Dan Sladek said. "This has been a difficult and emotional issue for both sides but with understanding and cooperation, it is done. We have a settlement that will relieve some or all of the CSPA retirees past financial struggles while continuing to provide coverage for them in the future."

The retiree health care issue, which will be part of future labor negotiations per the settlements with CSPA and the FOP, was a sticking point in contract talks with at least three of the city's four unions. All of the three-year contracts expired in December.

The roughly 400 employees in Akron’s chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have ratified a tentative agreement, which the city will make public after it is proofread and sent to council to accept or reject. The FOP votes to ratify next week. The firefighters union may be the last to reach a deal.

With a settlement in hand, CSPA is next. "We appreciate Mayor Horrigan’s commitment to the citizens of Akron and the employees (active and retired) and look forward to working with the mayor and his staff in resolving the issues that await us," Sladek said.

A separate lawsuit concerning the health care issue filed by former city prosecutor Douglas Powley is still in court. Powley's suit could affect other nonunion retirees impacted by the supplemental health insurance program changes.

 

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.