July 16, 2021
VTDigger reports this week that the Vermont National Education Association (VTNEA) and Vermont School Board representatives are heading to fact-finding on a successor health care agreement. The two sides attempted mediation but could not reach an agreement, so fact-finding is the next step in the process (a fact VSEA members, unfortunately, know all too well) Right now, the two sides are pretty far apart.
From the story:
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, a former South Burlington school board member who is leading negotiations on the employer side, said the two parties began negotiations close to $50 million apart. The union’s initial proposal would have cost school districts roughly $18 million extra more than the status quo, she said. School boards, meanwhile, entered into talks with an offer that would see employees collectively pay about $30 million more than they do now.
“After the most difficult school year that anybody can possibly remember, coming out of a pandemic — it’s just really disappointing that they are trying to limit access to health care and make it more expensive for public school employees,” [VTNEA Lead Negotiator Will Adams said.
A key point of contention is the Vermont-NEA’s proposal to implement income-sensitized premium cost-sharing, a longtime practice in many local contracts, as a statewide standard.
The union would like all employees making less than $35,000 to pay no more than 12% of the premium. Those making more than $35,000 but less than $70,000 would pay no more than 16%, and the highest earners would pay 18%.
The school boards have pitched a proposal that would see all licensed staff — mostly teachers — increase their contributions 2% over the life of the contract. Currently they pay 20%.
Support staff, meanwhile, whose contribution levels currently vary, would gradually get to an 80/20 cost split by the end of 2025. The employer side also wants workers to take on an additional 1% contribution if premiums go up by more than 10%.
Note: A single statewide contract has governed health insurance for all Vermont school employees since the start of 2021, and that two-year deal expires at the end of 2022.