Town moves closer to inclusion in Group Insurance Commission
By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
The Winthrop Town Council on Tuesday night adopted a key state law that will allow the town to conduct coalition bargaining with the town’s employees unions and retirees. Its main goal is the town will attempt to reach agreement with those unions so the town can purchase employee/retiree health insurance through the Group Insurance Commission (GIC), at an estimated cost savings of between $600,000 and $800,000 beginning next fiscal year.
Town Manager Rick White told the council negotiations have been ongoing with the town’s unions separately for some time, but in order for any agreements to advance to the next step, the town is required by legislation to enter into coalition bargaining first.
The council voted unanimously to adopt Section 19 of Chapter 32 B of the Massachusetts General Laws, which gives the municipality the right to coalition bargaining.
White said negotiations have advanced to the point that a coalition agreement is possible before the October 1 deadline for filing with the state.
If the town is successful in getting 70 percent of the bargaining units representing the insured population to agree to utilizing the GIC, the town could save between $600,000 and $800,000 based on what was spent on insurance premiums in the current 2008 fiscal year.
“I think its really important to recognize all of the hard work that has gone into these discussions to this point,” said council President Thomas Reilly after the meeting. “The town manager and the union representatives from all of the unions have been working very hard on this issue for some time, and if they are successful, Winthrop would be one of the first communities in the state to take advantage of the new legislation and the savings that it could mean.”
Reilly said with the October 1st filing date approaching rapidly, only 20 other communities have approached the state about providing insurance through GIC, but none of them have finalized such plans as yet.