2013-01-17 / Front Page

Non-union able to skip premium

Board votes against retroactive payment

MANISTIQUE – A split decision over the increased insurance premium of non-union county employees took center stage at a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. In a second meeting Tuesday, the standstill was broken, however, and commissioners voted in favor of relieving the employees of a portion of the premium payment.

During the commission’s meeting last week, Commissioner Dan LaFoille explained when the county union contracts took effect on Jan. 1, the employee contribution for the medical insurance premium increased from 5 to 15 percent. He noted the non-union employees usually “follow suit” with the union, but had received a January paycheck before the board could convene to approve the increase for their group.

Board Chairperson Al Grimm made the motion to begin taking the new premium out of nonunion employees’ paycheck during the next pay period. The board’s other option, he noted, would be to have the board approve the entire January premium payment to be withdrawn from the next nonunion paycheck – or to go retroactive. Under normal circumstances, the premium would be split between two pay periods each month, or 7.5 percent from each paycheck.

Commissioner Jerry Zellar supported the motion, but noted he was only doing so to open up discussion on the topic.

“If the union is going to pay the increase, and not the rest, I would make everybody pay the same,” he said.

Grimm noted his reasoning for approving essentially skipping one 7.5 percent payment for the nonunion employees was the timing the union contracts were approved. He added it was not the fault of the non-union employees, but the board’s.

“It’s not a ‘fault’,” Zellar responded. “It’s a simple number they’re charged on their paycheck.”

Treasurer Julie Roscioli, a nonunion employee who was in the audience at the time of the board’s discussion, interjected with her opinion on the matter.

“I would have rather had you take it out of my last check then take double out this time,” she said. “It wasn’t our mistake.”

Zellar then questioned whether Roscioli would prefer to have the 7.5 percent initial payment taken out over a few pay periods. Commissioner Sue Cameron expressed the same interest, asking if the payment could be split up.

“I doubt it,” Roscioli answered. “It would be a lot of work for the payroll clerk.”

Voting on the motion to have the non-union employees start paying the new premium amount in the next pay period, LaFoille and Grimm cast “yes” votes, while Cameron and Zeller cast “no” votes. Commissioner Craig Reiter was absent from the meeting. The motion failed.

Zellar then made the motion that the board implements a retroactive payment for non-union employees to cover the entire premium. He and Cameron cast “yes” votes, while Zellar and Grimm cast “no” votes, again resulting in a failed motion.

“It’s just a matter of timing,” LaFoille said, explaining his vote.

Cameron noted that the timing of contract negotiations wasn’t the unions’ fault either – yet they had to make the initial premium payment.

“It will be more coming out of the next check, but you can consider there was more in the last check that wouldn’t have been there,” added Zellar, commenting on the non-union’s pay.

The board placed the issue on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, when Reiter would be available to break any tie. During Tuesday’s meeting, Reiter was present, but Zellar was absent.

“I firmly feel that this is, basically new policy,” Reiter said. “How do you go back retroactive with new policy?”

He then made the motion to begin taking the new premium from non-union paychecks beginning with the next pay period. Cameron again expressed her concern over not making the missed initial premium payment retroactive for the non-union employees.

“The bargaining union employees have already paid their portion of it, ahead of the non-union employees,” she said.

She added the non-union employees were going to reap the benefits of the union-negotiated performance payments.

Commissioners Reiter, LaFoille and Grimm voted “yes” on the motion to begin the new premium payments in the next non-union pay period. Cameron cast the sole “no” vote; the motion passed.

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